By Susan Morse
Hampton Union, Friday, June 30, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
[Photo by Jamie Cohen]
Fred Engelbach, the veteran administrator at SAU 21, is saying goodbye today and retiring after 21 years of service.
Engelbach came on board as business administrator in 1985, serving under four superintendents and numerous interim superintendents. He is retiring as assistant superintendent for business, having divided his time the past two decades between facilities projects and the accounting, contractual and food service end, to name a few aspects, of overseeing six school districts and 10 different buildings.
Engelbach was hired because of his background in engineering, he said.
"School boards felt there were large facility programs ahead of them," he said.
In total, Engelbach was onboard for nine bond issues for school additions and renovations.
"We've had addition and renovation projects in every building except one," he said. The Hampton Academy.
"Every building looks different than when I came here. Right now, the buildings are well suited for the school population."
Growth in the Seacoast in the past two decades swelled enrollment in the six school districts within School Aministrative Unit 21: Hampton, North Hampton, Hampton Falls, Seabrook, South Hampton and the Winnacunnet Cooperative School District.
School boards in the various towns over the years have proposed withdrawing from SAU 21 and forming their own districts to get more individual attention. Some superintendents who left SAU 21, cited the unwieldy responsibility of supervising six different school boards.
It is an issue, said Engelbach, that will continue to be a challenge to the new assistant superintendent who is replacing him. Bill Sanders arrives in August from the Manchester school district.
"One thing I see as a challenge is determining the direction the SAU is going to take over the next years. Is it a K-12 educational community on the one hand, or a collection of school districts looking for ways to save money on superintendent and business services? The important thing is there should be conversations on all levels."
On the business end, Engelbach is proud of his work on the budgets.
"We've been working towards having schools build good budgets that are detailed and correctly meet the needs of the schools," he said.
Building quality budgets means looking at personnel. Salaries and benefits make up an estimated 65 percent of any school budget, he said.
"Every budget cycle we look at whether staffing is appropriate," he said.
Engelbach, 71, lives in Portsmouth and grew up in Illinois. He spent 25 years in the military, last stationed at the Pease Air Force Base in Newington. His children were grown by the time he and his wife moved to the Seacoast, but his grandchildren are now attending Winnacunnet High School.
In 21 years, he has attended numerous night meetings of school boards. The military was even more demanding. Moving on to this third chapter of his career means, for the first time, Engelbach can expect to spend nights at home with his family.
It will not mean complete retirement. Engelbach said he will work part time or get involved in community service.
Engelbach never applied for the position of superintendent. That, he said, was not his role.
He served with former superintendents Norman Katner, James Weiss, Jack Bourgoin and currently James Gaylord.
"If we've had some successes over the years," Engelbach said, "(it's because) we have a strong office, a team of people who are very capable, dedicated and hard working."