Richard Dahman believes the Milton School District’s controversies are in the past and the school district is poised for a fresh start.
He is the new acting superintendent of a district in the midst of plenty of change.
“It’s a unique situation. Having it be a one-year interim position allows me to provide a set of outside eyes on the things that we’re doing, and I have seen a willingness of people here to improve,” Dahman said.
The district has faced public scrutiny over decision-making and transparency recently. But school officials are ready for a fresh start, which kicks off with students returning to school Tuesday.
Tim Schigur, the last superintendent, resigned in June after questions arose about stipends and the release of records. A $59.9 million referendum was passed in April, and projects are in the works.
“My goal coming in is really to continue the great things that we’re doing but also look for ways that we can get better at the things that we can continue to improve,” Dahman said. “That idea of continuous growth is really important to me.”
School board President Joe Martin said despite the challenges of the last few years, the district continues to work for students and families.
“There’s a long tradition of excellence in Milton schools, and the board is committed to staying on that path. In spite of the choppy waters we’ve had recently, the picture is still the same,” he said.
Martin said the district has a lot to be proud of.
“We are rock solid. We have outstanding students, families and staff, and we want people to be confident that we can have a premier school district,” he said.
Martin said legal concerns prevented the district from defending itself fully or telling its side of the story on the stipends issue, but he said the focus has always been on doing what is best for the students. He said the district is “rock solid” financially and pointed to “incredibly” low taxes.
The results of an audit by Baker Tilly, released at Monday’s school board meeting, showed the district’s handling of stipends was standard for a school district.
“We will continue to be frugal and very aware for the voters and taxpayers,” Martin said. “We want to balance being as responsible as we can and as opportunistic as we can for the kids and their families.”
Dahman is still adjusting to his temporary home, but he said his first impression has been a good one.
“I’ve been very impressed by the people that I’ve had a chance to meet and their interest in being involved with the school district, and I think we’re going to have an outstanding year with Milton public schools.”
Dahman hopes people will continue to reach out to the district with concerns and ideas. With a new school year beginning next week, he said the district is ready to get back to what matters most: education.
“Our taxpayers made a really important investment in our students when they approved the referendum, so we’re working hard to make sure that we plan those projects in a way that enhances the learning for our students and does it in the most efficient manner,” he said.
“We’re going to continue to offer real high-quality education for students.”