The end of this school year will be very different one for Brian Busler.
After more than three decades working with educators and students, first as a business manager and since 2006, the Oregon School District superintendent, Busler, 58, announced Tuesday he plans to retire at the end of the year school year, on June 30. School board members are expected to make an announcement on the superintendent transition plan at their Monday, Oct. 28 meeting.
In a letter to school board members last week, Busler wrote “it has been the highest honor to be a part of the Oregon School District community and serve as your superintendent for the past 14 years.”
Busler leaves with a new elementary school under construction in Fitchburg after a successful 2018 referendum and with voters already aware of plans for a middle school to be built just north of the Village of Oregon in the next few years.
Busler said he’s “committed to ensuring a seamless transition” to the school’s next superintendent and has been working with school board members on succession and transition plans.
“Our district’s future is bright,” he said. “There is much work to be done as we plan to open our fourth elementary school in the City of Fitchburg. I am looking forward to continuing to focus on our mission throughout the 2019-2020 school year.”
A resident of Brooklyn and parent of two OHS graduates, Busler said he has “seen firsthand the positive impact of a strong school system and community support.”
“I am humbled to have worked with amazing colleagues and to have received tremendous support from our community. Our students, families, staff, community members and board members have left me with a lifetime worth of positive memories.”
Busler moved into education from a business background in 1988 as district business manager for the Verona Area School District. There, he worked for Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s current governor, who was then VASD’s superintendent.
He was later recruited to join the Sun Prairie School District, where he was deputy superintendent for 10 years before being hired as superintendent of the Beaver Dam School District in 1998. He was hired as OSD superintendent when the position opened up in 2006.
Fourteen years later, he leaves a growing school district that has won a bevy of awards in recent years for healthy schools and standout educators. Likely, his greatest legacy will be the shepherding of successful referendum drives in 2014 (capital improvements), 2016 (teacher compensation) and 2018 (new school, land), totaling more than $100 million.
Those victories – all gained with around 2-to-1 margins – demonstrated local support of the schools have provided needed space for the fast-growing district to expand in coming years, though he also presided over a failed referendum in 2012 to spend $33 million plan to upgrade the high school, middle school and athletic fields.
When asked about his time in the district, Busler quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, saying, “We all have an opportunity to take care of the garden for a period of time, and we do our best during our time to take the best care of the garden as a possibility.”
“To the best of my ability, that’s what I’ve always tried to do,” he said. “Building relationships with school staff and students and of course, within the community.
“My time in Oregon has been marked with tremendous community support for public education.”
Lauded for leadership
Busler will be leaving on top of his game. In his last school board performance review, in May, he was lauded as a “good fit and good administrator.”
Board president Steve Zach wrote that the position of superintendent is a critical one for a school district, particularly with Oregon’s growth, likening Busler’s duties to that of a CEO.
“You’re educating 4,000-plus students and maintaining the facilities in which to do that, providing transportation for them, employing over 500 people,” Zach said. “That’s a real complex job, and you need someone who’s really skilled in terms of being able to manage all those pieces and being a leader in the community and having the trust and respect of the community.
“Brian does that and has that.”
Zach termed Busler’s leadership “extremely strong,” along with his work ethic, preparation and organization.
“For us, really the telling factor is the fact that for the third time in five years, we’ve had the community support a referendum for the district for additional funds, and all of them passed in the 60 percent and higher range,” he said. “You don’t get that if the district doesn’t have confidence in their superintendent.”
For the past 26 years, Busler has taught part time, leading graduate-level courses for aspiring educators at UW-Whitewater, Cardinal Stritch, UW-Madison and Edgewood College. He said he plans to continue to teach graduate level courses in the doctoral program at Edgewood “in the years ahead.”
After that, the avid bicyclist said he and his wife, Jane – who’s also retiring next year after a career in university-level education – will surely hit some bike paths around the state, as their children are scattered across the corners of Wisconsin, and an 8-month-old “beautiful granddaughter.”
“We’ve been partners for a good, long time and look forward to what lies ahead,” he said. “Lots of great things on the horizon, and we are excited and grateful and thankful to have had these past 14 years in the Oregon School District.”
He’s also looking forward to getting to his favorite trout streams around southwestern Wisconsin, and maybe a trip or two to his beloved Madison River in Montana.
“I’d spend another lifetime chasing wild trout in Yellowstone National Park,” he said. “It’s my favorite place in the world,” he said.