Brown County Schools and the Board of School Trustees lost a gentleman and a scholar in the passing of John Mills on May 7.
John was serving in his third term as a school board member, having also served a term in the 1980s. John was a gentle and caring man who made the welfare of our students and staff his primary focus in making decisions as a member of the board.
When John became a board member again in 2006, he was interested in a variety of programs at the schools. He quickly became an advocate for the Brown County Career Resource Center. He worked diligently to assist with the operational financing of the CRC through the referendum of 2008. John developed the concept of asking for 1 cent per $100 of assessed valuation in order to assist the CRC with its operational revenues. Through the work of many people, including John, the Brown County general fund referendum was successful, and the CRC was supported for an additional seven years.
As we have begun discussing the possibility of another referendum, John had been interested in again supporting the program of adult education in Brown County with the potential to request a continuance of the referendum for this purpose.
He believed in limited class sizes. This was his campaign theme in 2006. While we have had some success in keeping many of our class sizes down, we never really hit the mark for which John wished. The funding formula from the General Assembly has kept us from accomplishing this goal which John set for us.
We have been able to sustain several years of cost-cutting without reductions in force, meaning that effective young teachers are advised that their job has been eliminated for the next school year. We have also maintained art, music and physical education nearly intact while the general fund budget has significantly decreased in enrollment, due largely to goals set by the board and supported by John.
During his latest tenure, he oversaw some major honors which the district has received. These include Four Star School status for Helmsburg and Sprunica and the National Blue Ribbon School award for Sprunica.
The successes of the Brown County Junior High School We the People teams as state and national champions have been accomplished under his terms as a board member. One other source of pride for him was the accomplishment of the high schools as one of the top public schools in Indiana on students passing the algebra end-of-course assessment. He was particularly interested in curriculum initiatives in math and science which the district has in place.
John was also involved in several projects designed to improve our facilities. Safety entrances at Helmsburg, Sprunica and Van Buren as well as Brown County High School, Brown County Junior High School and Brown County Intermediate School have been added.
New science, technology, engineering and mathematics laboratory rooms with the latest equipment have replaced obsolete laboratories at the high school and the junior high and added rooms not previously in existence at the intermediate and elementary schools.
John was educated at Dartmouth College. He was an entrepreneur who had the artistic ability to mold pottery, and this craft took him to the western part of the United States for a period in between his two tenures on the Brown County School Board. When he returned from this part of his journey, he operated Brown County Pottery for the remainder of his life.
John is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; their two daughters, Ann and Ellen; and two sons, Karl and David. We extend our deep sympathy to his family.
Our board and our district will miss John and his leadership and intellect. He will be long remembered for his vision and his interest in the education of the children and adults of our community.