Bob Indihar vividly remembers the beginning of his tenure as Moose Lake Superintendent of Schools. It began with watching water creeping in through the doors of the old school building in June 2012. His predecessor watched with him, then wished him good luck and left him to face his future.
For much of the next eight years Indihar, now 56, worked hard to get a new school building for the district. He announced his retirement in January.
“Bob accomplished quite a bit,” said Steven Blondo, chairperson of the Moose Lake School Board.
It took a lot of hard work. What many people outside of Moose Lake don't realize is that about 75% of Moose Lake is nontaxable, Indihar said. The school district does not receive tax revenue from the state park, prison and Minnesota Sex Offender Program.
Due to the unusual circumstances, Indihar and many members of the community lobbied at state for the ability to bond for the new building.
In the end, the state picked up about 70% of the costs.
One of his favorite memories of his years is the community effort to rebuild
“It was how the community came together to get legislators to pass the bond for the new school,” Indihar said. “There was more of an impact with the community going to the state.”
Blondo agreed. Besides being instrumental in getting the bond passed and state equalization aid after the flood, Blondo said Indihar also helped lower the tax burden for district residents.
Furthermore, Indihar led the transition into the new school and created a culture of excellence, as well as kept the community updated and engaged with the school.
A few challenges over the years surprised Indihar, the most notable being the shortage of teachers compared to 20 years ago. Indihar said the small school district has a lot of staff turnover.
“We had 50-75 applications 20 years ago (for open positions) and now it’s four to five,” Indihar said. “It’s difficult to find quality teachers.”
He said a big part of the change is fewer people are becoming teachers.
Indihar was the high school principal for 14 years before becoming the superintendent at Moose Lake.
Another change that really surprises him is how much mental health issues have risen over the years and impact children across all grade levels.
“You never used to see a kindergartener in the principal's office,” Indihar said.
He said social media is a mix of pros and cons. One of the big perks of social media is the ability to communicate more efficiently with parents and students.
He said educators were concerned when cell phones rose in popularity. District leaders tried to prevent cell phone use in the school, but soon realized it was a losing battle. Instead they switched their tactic to teaching the students how to use the devices properly.
As Indihar reflected on his experiences over the years, he said this year has been a good one.
“I thought I would retire on a high note,” he said.
And what’s next? Indihar doesn't plan to sit around the house. He has three boys, one of whom will be having a traditional wedding in Germany in the spring. Besides traveling to Europe, he and his wife, Deb, plan to explore other countries, such as New Zealand.
“It’s time for a break, and I’m still healthy now,” Indihar said.
Indihar's last day will be June 30.
The school board is currently accepting applications to fill Indihar's position, Blondo said. The board is looking for someone who can continue to keep clear lines of communication among the school, teachers, parents, staff and community. Their ideal candidate would also continue to nurture students and help them succeed.
“We are looking for someone to pick up where Bob left off,” Blondo said.