Jim Edgar was in the governor’s office when Ken Maurer decided to make a pest of himself for the sake of his students at MTHS.

Jim Edgar was in the governor’s office when Ken Maurer decided to make a pest of himself for the sake of his students at MTHS.

Maurer was fighting to get $11 million to build more classrooms and an auditorium at MTHS.

It was 1998. Maurer was determined to get the structure built. A referendum had failed the year before. Voters said they would approve a tax increase to build more classrooms if the auditorium was struck from the proposal.

Maurer refused to pull the auditorium from the plans.

He applied for a state grant to build the $6 million structure. MTHS did not win in the grant process.

Maurer went back to the voters to sell the auditorium idea a second time.

He mounted a campaign to convince the taxpayers the auditorium was needed.

“We did a better job of selling it the second time. The taxpayers approved it,” Maurer said.

But, he was not done because the state decided to accept more grants for school building projects.
Maurer saw his chance.

He begged, pleaded and cajoled supporters of the school district to inundate Gov. Edgar with phone calls, letters and post cards in support of MTHS.

“I got a call from Edgar,” Maurer said, laughing.

“He said, ‘Ken, what are you doing? We’ve never seen so many letters and post cards.’”

In the end, MTHS won $6 million from the Not only was the auditorium built, but Maurer was able to lower the amount of the bond and saved taxpayers money.

Because of that fight the auditorium means a great deal to Maurer. And, as his retirement on June 30 nears, the auditorium is being named in his honor.

Maurer has been superintendent at MTHS for 24 years. But, his start in education goes back 42 years.

“I actually got into education by accident. I was going to go to law school, but I was broke. I got a job teaching,” Maurer said.

“I didn’t even have a teaching certificate. I got hired and no one noticed I didn’t have a certificate for three months. I taught the social sciences.”

Once the oversight was discovered Maurer took the needed classes to get his certificate and went right on teaching in St. Charles, Mo.

Several years went by and his wife, also a teacher, wanted to start a family. She wanted to stay home with the children.

Maurer said that meant he needed a better paying job.

“I found a job as a principal in Elmwood in Peoria County. Then I became superintendent,” he said.

As time went on the superintendent’s job opened at MTHS and he won the position.

“I stayed here so long because in a school the size of MTHS a superintendent can make things happen. I don’t have layers of bureaucracy to go through. I know all the staff and many of the students,” Maurer said.

“I had several opportunities to leave. We had four children. I wanted them to go to a good school. I knew we had a good school in MTHS. I also realized you can make a career by seeing how far you can go. Or, you can stay with your small school and make it the best.”

Maurer said the naming of the auditorium in his honor is humbling.

“I can’t take the credit for that auditorium. It took a lot of people to make that happen,” he said.

Maurer said he is proud of the structure and grateful it is there.

“I’m a strong believer in the fine arts. The arts play an important role in education. We are leaders in the world due to innovation and creativity. The fine arts bring that out,” Maurer said.

“It bothers me that many schools are cutting the fine arts. The auditorium has complimented our commitment to the fine arts. Whether it’s drama, speech or band it’s a venue for them. Before the auditorium we had to schedule sports and the fine arts for use of the gym. The auditorium opened up rehearsals and performances for the fine arts.”

WHAT: Dedication of the Kenneth H. Maurer Performing Arts Center
WHEN: 2-4p.m. May 1
WHERE: MTHS Auditorium