During the mid-1950s, educational changes were in the wind; the Iowa Legislature responded in 1958 by passing a law that required all public school districts in the state to have a minimum of 300 students. At this time, Western Dubuque County had two school buildings in Epworth and Peosta and more than 50 one-room schoolhouses.
The county superintendent of schools for Dubuque County was a newly appointed young man by the name of Wayne Drexler. Within hours of his appointment, he had citizens at his door inquiring about the new law and how a district could be formed in western Dubuque County.
Wayne organized multiple meetings throughout the county in 1959, and local leaders agreed to form a new district. In early 1960, a five-person school board was elected, including La Vern Deutmeyer, Ray Scherrman, Irvin Recker, Merle Ross and Harold Driscoll.
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One of the first board decisions was to hire Wayne as the superintendent. At this point, Wayne had no teachers, no students, no buses. He had a building in Peosta and a building in Epworth. He hired Epworth Principal Ralph Buchman to be his first administrator. Their immediate task was to find and enroll 300 students; the new law required this for the new district to become a viable entity.
So they traveled throughout the county that summer searching for students. Most children in the county attended the area parochial schools and could not be counted. By the beginning of the school year, they had 360 students, over 100 of whom were kindergarten age. At this time there was now considerable interest in the new district, and areas beyond Dubuque County wished to join. When Western Dubuque became a reality, it encompassed 16 communities, 550 square miles and parts of five counties. If a young man from Luxemburg had a prom date from Bernard, he would travel over 110 miles before his evening was over.
Within the first decade of 1960-1970, Western Dubuque grew with buildings in Epworth, Farley, Dyersville, Cascade, Bernard and Holy Cross.
Enrollment was almost 4,000 students and required the purchase of 46 portable classrooms.
Wayne hired good, strong people and let them do their jobs. For 31 years, he navigated the direction of the new district to a point of excellence and respect.
It took a special person to pull all the communities together to provide a quality educational system for Western Dubuque. Wayne Drexler was the man for the job!
Drexler served as superintendent for more than three decades and remained a champion of the WD district all of his life. He died July 31 at the age of 91.