Philip Baranowski – a lifelong advocate of technical education – recently retired from the Moraine Park Technical College District Board following 32 years of continuous service. Baranowski, of Green Lake, was appointed to the Board in 1979 while he was superintendent of Green Lake Public Schools. Following his retirement as superintendent in 1993, he continued his Board involvement, and over the past three decades, has served as treasurer, past chair and vice chair. His contributions to Moraine Park, as well as technical education statewide, are significant, according to Board Chairman Jodine Deppisch.
“Phil Baranowski has served on the Board for the past 32 years and throughout his tenure, he has been sought out as advisor and mentor to all community college trustees in Wisconsin, as well as the nation,” says Deppisch. “He was instrumental in developing a true leadership model of board trusteeship and his vast knowledge and experience contributed greatly to the success of Moraine Park, as well as other community colleges around the state and nation. Phil is a humble man of few words, but when he talks, people listen. His contributions have been many, his influence will be positive and long lasting and his kind and gentle words of wisdom will be greatly missed.”
The nine-member Board represents the communities served by the 10-county Moraine Park District, including all or the majority of Dodge, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, and Washington counties; and portions of Calumet, Columbia, Marquette, Sheboygan, Waushara, and Winnebago counties. Charged with setting policies for the District within the guidelines of state statutes, the volunteer and appointed Board hires Moraine Park presidents, implements policy rules, develops and sets a budget and reviews the current president’s performance, among others. The Board always includes one public school district administrator, which for 14 years, was Baranowski. When he retired as Green Lake School District superintendent, he continued his work on the Board for 18 more years as an additional member.
Moreover, Baranowski simultaneously served as a member of the Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association (WTCDBA), a forum for the trustees who represent the 16 Wisconsin technical college districts. Baranowski is recent past president of WTCDBA and has served as a member of the WTCDBA Board of Directors and executive committee.
He is credited for his leadership with both groups – especially in the areas of finance, budgeting and insurance. As Board treasurer, Baranowski urged development of the finance committee – a group focused on the financial aspects concerning Moraine Park, including budgeting, tax levies, receipts, disbursements, and borrowing funds. This played a major role in educating new Board members on the intricacies of public finance. “The finance committee meetings helped everyone understand the issues for improved financial decision-making,” said Baranowski. “It’s worked really well over the years.”
Paul Gabriel, executive director WTCDBA, agreed. “Phil has always been seen as understanding public finance at a very deep level. He has a way of talking about public finance as a steward, but he isn’t stuck at the micromanagement level. He’s known for promoting excellent stewardship on behalf of taxpayers and we look to him as an expert on the trustee’s role of public finance.”
Through the years, Baranowski’s contributions have helped save taxpayers millions of dollars, according to Gabriel. Fourteen years ago, Baranowski led an initiative urging the formation of the Wisconsin Technical College Insurance Trust, a self-insured trust that today includes all 16 Wisconsin technical colleges. He was equally instrumental in the formation of District Mutual Insurance (DMI), an insurance company providing property, liability, life and workers’ compensation insurance to the 16 technical colleges. “Phil brought the 16 colleges together to create the Trust underlying DMI,” said Gabriel. “By managing our own affairs and claims, DMI and the Trust have saved taxpayers millions in premiums and claim costs. Phil had a vision that this could happen and he felt strongly that there were some things the technical colleges could do together.”
The formation of DMI has resonated positively, with a number of recognitions, including the Community Colleges Business Officers Exemplary Practices Award in Financial Practices and the Government Finance Officers Association National Award for Excellence in Management and Service Delivery, among others.
Baranowski, in addition to his work on the Board and WTCDBA, chaired the Trust for 14 years. “I can’t take credit for any of the Board’s accomplishments,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed all the years because we have such talented people willing to give of their time. They are all dedicated to the cause of education and serving the needs of the community, students and employers.”
Baranowski is also a member of the Wisconsin Association of Retired School District Administrators, the Wisconsin Retired Educators, Green Lake County Economic Development Corp., Green Lake Lions, Green Lake Public Schools Foundation Inc. and City of Green Lake Plan Commission, among many others. He also serves as trustee and treasurer at St. Catherine of Siena, in Ripon. His service to technical education, according to Gabriel, is nearly unending.
A recipient of numerous awards, Baranowski holds a bachelor’s degree in upper elementary education from UW-Oshkosh, a master’s degree in education from Arizona State University and a diploma from Manitowoc County Teachers College.
“I’m interested in my community and if I have something to offer I like to be involved,” he said. “Sometimes people say it’s hard for me to say no. There might be some truth to that, but my big reward is attending graduation and award ceremonies where I see parents, grandparents and graduates. They are so proud – and that is reward in itself.”