Arlo Renschler was always there for non-traditional students in the Brainerd School District, and he helped students until his dying days, his wife, Clarice Renschler, said Tuesday.
Arlo, 73, died of cancer Sunday at his home in Pequot Lakes with his family by his side.
Arlo started the Brainerd School Alternative Education Center in 1971 and served as its director until retiring in 1994.
Arlo began working for the school district in 1965 as a counselor at the former Franklin Junior High School. In 1968, he moved to Brainerd High School as the director of secondary special education programs. He continued this role when the AEC opened.
Clarice, who served as Arlo's secretary at the AEC for 21 years, said her husband was always about doing what was best for students, especially those who got lost in the system.
Clarice said Arlo worked on the vocational programs at the high school that were geared for students who were not going to college.
Clarice said after Arlo retired he continued to help students. He worked with school-to-work and technical programs through the Freshwater Education District in Staples and with the Little Falls School District. He also served on the board of directors of the Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program and for PORT Group Homes.
Arlo also was working on a new Power Point program with the Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce.
Clarice said Arlo had a hard time with the recent cuts the Brainerd School Board made, including some of the programs he started, such as the model restaurant called the Apple Cafe.
Clarice and Arlo were married Nov. 15, 1957, in Bismarck, N.D. Arlo was a principal in Kennedy and in Bowdle, S.D., before he and Clarice moved to Brainerd. They have three daughters and nine grandchildren.
Arlo's daughter, Claudia O'Connor, Duluth, said her father was a counselor when she was in junior high, which gave her a whole different approach on how to look at school and life. O'Connor and her siblings had to clean the gymnasium on Saturdays while Arlo worked. And they were always the first students to get to school in the morning.
Jim Hunt, retired BHS principal, worked with Arlo on several special education programs.
"He was a great person to work with," said Hunt. "He always wanted the best things for the kids. If people got off task, he would be the one to steer them back to getting a program to work for the students.
"He was a great person and a great family man. He became a role model for most of us."
Marlee Larson, the director of the ISD 181 Learning Center in Brainerd, which includes the AEC, said Renschler was always been a mentor. Larson said he hired her to succeed him as director when he retired. After his retirement he stopped at the center frequently to offer ideas, she said, with his last visit in November.
"He was a champion for kids and he believed in second chances," said Larson. "He was the founding father of alternative learning in the state and he put Brainerd on the map. He was a mentor and a friend."
Bob Miller, who retired from the district in 1983 after 41 years, worked with Renschler for 10 years on the work experience program. Miller said he was instrumental in getting the program started and making it successful.
"He was definitely an administrator looking out for the welfare of the vocational-type students," said Miller. "He was easy to work with, a good educator and he had a good sense of humor."
JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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