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A Legacy of Service to Others

When I learned last month of the passing of a respected servant leader in our community, I paused to reflect. I met Jane Skogman as a Dollars for Scholars volunteer. Still, reading her obituary, I realized I had missed the opportunity to really know someone who had a foundational impact on our community and schools. So, I turned to two people who knew her well: former superintendents Ray Hoheisel and Bruce Novak.

I learned that Jane was a remarkable community leader who dedicated her life to the betterment of her small towns and their children. Jane served as a school board member for an astounding 35 years, from 1973 to 2008. Her service coincided with periods of rapid growth and profound change in our community, making her contributions all the more significant.

A growing community

When Jane first stepped into her role on the school board, our small school district was experiencing a surge in population as the cities and suburbs started to expand into our area and the baby boomers progressed through our public schools — always demanding more space.

The challenges of providing quality education to a growing number of students were real. “I had just been hired as an Assistant Superintendent for Instruction,” said Ray Hoheisel, who was assigned the task of communicating the need for a $5.8 million bond to fund the construction of Isanti Junior High School with remodeling and classroom additions at Cambridge Junior High School and Cambridge Senior High School.

“Gaining public support for the project with its considerable tax implications required an extensive communications effort. Jane stepped in to help, along with many other community members, and the voters approved. She did the same with subsequent building projects, which required voter approval. She had so many connections,” remembered Ray.

I learned it was Jane's strong relationships, unwavering commitment to children and learning, and reputation for bringing calm to challenging situations. “The thing about Jane is that she had those contacts,” he said. “She served on committees, went about her business, volunteered, and was a 4-H leader. She just got things done.”

The 70s and 80s were tumultuous times in public education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed in 1975. IDEA required schools to provide services and accommodations to students with disabilities, ensuring equal educational opportunities. In Cambridge, it meant creating a school for hundreds of children with special needs residing in the Cambridge State Hospital.

Ray Hoheisel was superintendent and remembered that some community members strongly objected to the school district taking on that responsibility. Jane's steady presence was a source of reassurance. 

A front-runner for special needs inclusion

“She was diligent about her school board responsibilities, rarely missing board or board committee meetings. She visited schools regularly, attended special events at individual schools, and was a front runner in bringing special needs students into mainstream education in the district,” he added. “Her stature in the community as a mom, neighbor, volunteer, and friend to many gave her credibility that not everyone possesses.”

Jane was a community leader who believed in the power of relationships for the greater good. That legacy continues in our district today.

Bruce Novak, who served as superintendent of schools from 2005 – 2013, noted, "I’ve always thought school board members have a tough row to hoe. So, to serve that long is remarkable." Jane embraced the challenges with humility and a deep sense of purpose. "She’s one of the most gracious women I have ever met. She was always concerned about other people and their well-being. Kind, generous, supportive, and active in the community."

Jane's involvement extended beyond the school board. She was a founding member of SEE (Schools for Equity in Education), which advocated for funding and equalizing state aid for rural communities. “We were always driving down to the cities to advocate for our community,” said both Ray and Bruce. Her service transcended the boardroom; it laid the foundation for our school district and touched the heart of our community.

As we reflect on Jane's life and incredible contributions, I’m filled with gratitude that her legacy extends far beyond her years of service. She left behind a blueprint for selfless dedication, a reminder that we, too, can make a difference in the lives of others. Jane understood that education is not just about classrooms and textbooks; it's about the relationships we build, the communities we strengthen, and the futures we inspire. 

C-I Dollars for Scholars volunteer

Jane was also a vibrant member of C-I Dollars for Scholars, raising scholarship funds for Bluejacket graduates. I can only imagine the number of careers she helped launch and the ripple effect on future generations. Jane stayed active well into her 90s. So, to her family — her five children who grew up on the ancestral family farm, her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren – thank you for sharing her with our community. She left a lasting impact.

Her obituary reminded us of “Her unlimited love, generous spirit, hard work, and willingness to give.” She’s a servant leader we can all learn from. Although I barely knew Jane, my life is better because of her. She lived a life of service, grace, and wisdom. Her legacy is a reminder of the impact one individual can have on a community. May we all have a calling and a purpose in life to make a difference.




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