The Ottumwa Courier

April 15, 2014

School board member resigns

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — As this week's school board meeting came to a close, the president read a letter from one of the members.

Board President Carol Mitchell read that fellow board member Ron Oswalt was announcing his resignation from the Ottumwa Board of Education. Oswalt was not present at this week's meeting.

"It's nothing bad, not at all," he told the Courier by phone Tuesday. "I'll say this: I'm not a board person, not a person who has been involved in a lot of boards. But this has been a really good experience. I enjoyed the three superintendents I worked with, and Carol (Mitchell) is also very good."

Oswalt, a 10-year board veteran, retired as Indian Hills Community College dean of students in 2003; he was then elected to the all-volunteer Ottumwa school board. He's worked as an educator the majority of his adult life.

However, playing for the NFL was the first job out of college for the grandfather of seven. Not that he got to play much, he says, and it's not something he talks about much, either; but he says being part of pro football for a few years was a wonderful experience.

"I signed with the Vikings in '68, then was picked up by the Cleveland Browns, kicked around with them a bit," he said. "Most of my time was spent on practice squads, what they called taxi squads."

He'd gone to Drake on an athletic scholarship, meaning football had paid for his education, gave him an interesting job after college and taught him lessons that he didn't learn in the classroom. But outside of the top players on a team, he admitted, football can be a really rough job.

"It was a wonderful experience, and I met a lot of great people," he says now, 45 years later.

When the Browns were ready to send him to New Orleans, he decided it'd be best to pursue his other passion: education. Around 1971, he started his teaching and coaching career at Drake.

He came to Ottumwa for the opportunities at Indian Hills, which he called a "great organization." He has a doctorate in education, and, even after his retirement, has continued to teach a couple of classes each semester to aspiring teachers.

But retirement, he said, has also allowed him and his wife to travel a lot more.

"My grandchildren are at the age where they are into everything, so we travel as much as we can to participate," Oswalt said. "With the summer activities coming up, we decided it was time."

Mitchell asked district financial consultant John Donner what the board's obligation would be. Donner, former board secretary, is familiar with state regulations over Iowa school districts.

Donner said he believes the board will have 30 days after Oswalt's position is officially vacated to appoint a replacement.

The Wapello County Auditor's Office confirmed that is indeed the case. Also, there is not a provision for residents to petition for an election instead. Voters can choose a candidate during the next scheduled election.

"It's been very positive," said Oswalt, "but it's time for new blood and new ideas."

— News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark