At the end of June, Loyd Rennaker will leave Darby Schools for the last time as an employee of the district. The Darby native graduated from the school in 1988. He’ll probably be back often to watch his daughter and perhaps grandchildren play sports. And it’s not like he’s moving out of the area.
Rennaker will join his dad, Dwain Rennaker, on the Rennaker Ranch on Old Darby Road. The elder Rennaker has built up quite a cattle buying business and is ready to slow down a bit. They usually run about 600 head of yearlings as well as 50 or so pairs. Rennaker will be at his dad’s side, learning and helping as he has done all of his life.
“It’s a really good opportunity for me,” he said. “And to go back to my roots and continue that tradition. That’s good. I may even get some young horses to ride.”
The ranch is the place where Rennaker grew up. With five sisters, his dad, and mom, Lillian, the family was hardworking and all learned early on how to ride, rope and handle cattle.
Rennaker graduated in 1988 and went on to become a math teacher. His first job was in Malta, Montana, where he taught for one year. Then, 24 years ago, he came back to teach at Darby. During that time, he was not only a math and chemistry teacher but also the athletic director, football coach, basketball coach, elementary principal and high school principal. Seven years ago, he became the superintendent of the district.
During his tenure as a teacher, Rennaker has seen the district enrollment go from 645 students in 1994 to 320 in 2018 with 103 of those students in high school. Although the enrollment has declined, Rennaker proudly points out that the enrollment has been steady during his tenure.
Rennaker has many reasons to be proud of the district. Fourteen years ago, he and a group of people affiliated with the school formed the Darby Excellence Fund. This was designed as a way to build goodwill with community members that really didn’t have any connection to the school. They hoped to gain volunteers and fund some special projects. The second Saturday in June has become the date for the organization’s benefit dinner, wagon rides on the Rennaker Ranch, and an auction. Since then, he estimates the organization has raised around $500,000.
Another windfall for Darby Schools happened in 2015 when Archie and Sue Lorentzen left the district about $3 million after their deaths. Rennaker put together a committee of community and school personnel to figure out how best to use the funds. An endowment fund was set up with only the interest from the fund being used. Rennaker said they used some of these funds to bring high speed internet to the school.
With some of the funds, Darby Schools hired Shelby Rogala to be a liaison between the school and the community. One of these programs makes Rennaker especially happy, the family outreach night in the elementary school. There is a free dinner and parents and community members have a chance to see what is going on in the school.
These last two years have seen the onset of a new type of learning at Darby High School. The Personalized Learning program is a partnership featuring digital learning where assignments are uploaded by the teachers and the students can work through at their own pace as well as create projects to enhance their learning. Rennaker thinks that students educated with this method are more adaptable to situations in the workplace or in college.
Rennaker is married to Stacie and they have four children and one grandchild. Stacie recently became the director at the Darby Public Library so the family’s ties will remain strong in Darby. In addition, they have one daughter remaining in school. So Rennaker will still be in the school, on the bleachers, and continuing to be one of the school and town’s biggest promoters.