When it comes to the proverbial wearing of hats, Marion USD 408’s new superintendent Aaron Homburg has been sporting many of them.
Homburg has served in administration the past 13 years at USD 399 Natoma-Paradise-Waldo, a district covering 300 square miles and parts of four counties about 35 miles northeast of Hays. Natoma was the seventh-smallest school district in the state last year.
For 12 of his years at Natoma, Homburg served as both superintendent and principal. He also coached football.
“Part of the appeal of coming to Marion was not having to wear so many hats,” Homburg said. “At Natoma, I was Pre-K through 12 principal, superintendent and head football coach. It’s a lot of hats, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it’s going to be nice to wear one hat.”
A native of Wallace County in western Kansas, Homburg comes by his interest in education naturally.
His parents, who are retired and also planning to move to Marion, were both influential in the school system. His father served as superintendent of schools in a number of districts, and his mother taught.
Homburg said he also was influenced by his former teachers, as well as a passion for coaching.
Homburg earned his associate’s degree from Colby Community College, then transferred to Fort Hays State University before finishing his social science education degree at Bethany College in 1995.
He earned his master’s degree from Fort Hays in 2003 and completed his superintendent certification within the next year.
Prior to his time at Natoma, Homburg taught high school social studies and coached at USD 275 Triplains. This will be the first time in 22 years he will not be coaching football.
Homburg has a personal connection to USD 408, as his brother, Andrew, taught music at Marion in the late 1990s.
“I’ve had some other friends who have taught in this district, and I have heard nothing but good things about the community and faculty, staff (and) kids,” he said. “I always thought to myself that if this ever opened up, that it might be a place I would look.”
With Lee Leiker announcing his retirement from USD 408, Homburg said he decided to apply, as the timing seemed right for him and his family.
“It just so happened that Mr. Leiker was retiring this year, and my baby graduated this year, so it was kind of a perfect storm to look,” he said. “So far I can’t complain one iota.”
Homburg and his wife, Nichol, who is a Jamberry Nails Consultant, have three children. Oldest daughter KaiLee is a biology major at Kansas State, son August is doing online IT work and helping with the Labrador retrievers the family raises, and daughter Terran will be a freshman at the University of Nebraska at Kearney in the fall.
Vision for the district
Homburg said his initial goals in Marion are to learn how things are done, assist and listen and build upon the tradition of success already in place.
“There’s no need to come in and turn things upside-down,” he said. “My goal is to come in and help the staff, help listen to the community. We’re going to put kids first and do great things for kids. That’s what we’re going to do, and that’s what they have been doing. We’re just going to continue down that same path.”
In the short time he’s been in Marion—Homburg’s first official day on the job is July 1—he said he’s been “very impressed” with both the staff and the community.
“In this position, you work for the people,” he said. “You work for the board of education and you work for the constituents here. They were all very friendly and very nice (when I came to interview).”
One challenge Homburg said the district could face is crafting a timely budget.
When the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in March that the current school funding system was inadequate, the Legislatures crafted Senate Bill 19, which would increase funding to public schools over a two-year span.
Senate Bill 19 was signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback Thursday and is currently awaiting vetting by the Kansas Supreme Court, the timing of which could create challenges for Kansas school districts to put budgets together by the Aug. 25 deadline.
Normally, budget meetings happen in June, Homburg said.
“Until the state knows how this is all going to fit in, we may not have budget meetings until the end of July, first of August,” he said. “That gives us probably 10 days to get a budget put together because we have to publish it in the paper before it can even go to the clerk.
“All 286 schools are going to be fighting that this year,” he added. “It’s going to be tough. The good news is, if it does pass the muster, there’s more money put into it to help kids.”
When he’s not involved in administrative duties, Homburg enjoys a number of hobbies. He and his family raise Labrador Retrievers; they currently have 12 dogs, he said.
“We’ve run hunt tests and field trials from Louisiana to Minnesota to North Dakota,” he said. “We’ve had field champions (and) amateur field champions.”
Homburg said he also enjoys hunting, which is an opportunity to watch his dogs work, as well as fishing and golf.
Asked about his top priority when he takes the reins as superintendent, Homburg said: “I would say initially, my top priority is continued commitment to excellence. Even though there’s a new person in town that has the superintendent title, we want to continue doing good things.”