Mike Wildgen, former city manager, serving as chairman of school consolidation group

Having already helped steer some community cornerstones through tumultuous times, Mike Wildgen is ready to help the Lawrence school district’s newest group of volunteer advisers figure out how to consolidate schools, close schools, upgrade schools or even build new schools.

Wildgen, who spent 31 years at Lawrence City Hall as city manager and assistant city manager, now is serving as chairman of the district’s new Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group.

The group’s assignment: recommend how to reduce a list of six elementary schools to either three or four within the next three to five years, a course set by the Lawrence school board to preserve and improve academic achievement while saving operational money amid mounting budget cuts.

Wildgen, who accepted Superintendent Rick Doll’s invitation to help out, envisions his role as something of a management coordinator: calling meetings to order, helping plan future meetings and otherwise handling administrative duties.

That way, the group’s 27 appointed members can pay attention to the needs of students and the futures of buildings being considered for consolidation: Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill, with Woodlawn interests also being heard.

“The committee needs to focus as much as it can on the task at hand,” Wildgen said.

Since leaving City Hall in 2006, Wildgen has served as interim administrative leader for the Watkins Community Museum of History, the city of Eudora, and — in a role he still holds — the Lawrence Humane Society.

The school group had its first meeting Thursday and plans to start regular meetings in August. Its recommendations are due to the school board in February.