Common passion for schools and farming brings Wood River board together
Nebraska’s rural schools bring communities together. Behind them are the farmers who pay a large share of the taxes that fund education, but also the farmers who serve on their local school boards.
As a pig farmer, Dean Luehr doesn't usually “hog” the picture.
“We don't want to be on camera,” he said with a smile.
But there his face is, projected on classroom walls, asking “Now who likes bacon?”
Hands shoot up, as kids get a virtual farm tour from Dean, who’s not only a farmer, but the school board president.
“And I’m here with your morning announcements,” his voice booms through the classroom speakers.
There are 1,724 school board members in Nebraska, and of the six serving Wood River, they share a common passion for education, but something more.
“Every single person has an ag connection,” Luehr said.
There’s a seed dealer, cow-calf producer, corn growers, and an agronomist.
Jeremy Brandt works for Aurora Cooperative, and has been on the school board for a year.
He said, “I'm the only one that lives in town but I still work with all the growers in the area.”
They say it’s a thankless job, especially given the frustration over high property taxes on farm land.
Brandt said, “When it comes to the taxes, we complain taxes are high, but when it comes to schools, people are okay with that part of it.”
And they’re using School Board Recognition Week to give kids an understanding of what they do.
Luehr said, “It gives them a base, more of a foundation of the tax money that runs their school, what the people do that are on their school board.”
Superintendent James Haley said these elected board members play an important role.
“They really set the direction of the school district where we're going to go not just financially, but our curriculum, expectations for our staff and our kids. They truly are the leaders of our school district,” said Dr. Haley.
And those leaders recognize many kids from a farm town don’t share their roots.
“You think they go to Wood River, they probably know about agriculture. But they don't,” Luehr said.
This week these farmers, and school leaders, are taking over morning announcements, with videos shot on location at their farms.
Luehr said he was hesitant at first, but the idea has taken off.
“Pretty much spread like wildfire,” he said.
They’ve racked up thousands of views on Facebook, and set the tone they’re trying to balance taxes,
with the need for good schools.
Dean Luehr said, “If we can have the best school we have with the resources we have available, that's kind of our goal.”