ope体育An incumbent and three challengers will face off in the May 12 primary election to represent Ward A on the Grand Island Public Schools Board of Education.
Incumbent Terry Brown will face off against challengers Lindsey Jurgens, Kelly Markham and Randy Stueven. The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 3 general election to fill the one Ward A seat.
‘Still work to be done’
Brown, who has served on the GIPS board since January 2005, said he is running for re-election because he feels that while a lot has been accomplished by the board and the district over the past four years, there is still work to be done.
“Our changes to the high school really feel like we have just started,” he said. “For me. I would like to see more of that change with the academy model and see where that goes. It is a big school and this is one way to make schools within a school. Really, I want to see what that does. I just feel like now is not the time to step away.”
ope体育As one of the longest-tenured members on the board, Brown said he has the knowledge and expertise necessary to continue serving on the board. As an engineer by trade, he said he is knowledgeable about buildings and what it takes to keep them operating from a structural and financial standpoint.
ope体育During his time on the GIPS board, Brown said he has continued to served on the facilities and finance committee.
ope体育“We switch around all committees, but that is one I have been able to stay on,” he said. “With an engineering background, I really get to use my knowledge of not just construction, but also of how things need to be put together financially to make it work.”
With the move to e-learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown said this would not have been possible without the district becoming a one-to-one district almost 12 years ago.
ope体育“We started that process of needing to change how we were doing some things with computers,” he said. “That is just another case of why we do what we do.”
Brown said the academies at Grand Island Senior High were created to fill some of the top jobs within the city of Grand Island and to give students the opportunity to pursue careers in these fields. He added the academies were created to allow students to customize their education paths, and wants students to have the opportunity to do so.
“We wanted to make individualized learning for each student and break down our large building into smaller academies,” he said. “We wanted to have more support go around and provide the students with that real-world experience through their projects and just bringing in our local business people to give them some real-world experience.”
Brown said the GIPS board plans to reevaluate the academies and their related paths on “an ongoing basis” to ensure they are meeting students’ goals.
“This is a model that is not a one-time setup to run,” he said. “We are continually evaluating what we are offering and seeing if there is something out there. Sometimes it can be rolled into one of our academies or maybe that academy needs to be reshaped somehow. The really nice thing about that is it is based on the environment we are in.”
Students are the ‘future of Grand Island’
Jurgens said the reason she is running for the GIPS board is because her life is ”very much built around” her three children — an elementary-schooler, a middle-schooler and a high-schooler — and that she wants what is best for not just them, but all GIPS students.
“I am passionate about the city of Grand Island and the fact that our students are the future of Grand Island,” she said. “So I think we need to do everything we can to support them.”
ope体育Jurgens said her running for a Ward A seat on the GIPS board is not like that of mayor or the city council as it is a position where all members must work as a team to benefit the community as a whole.
“The fact that I would be a member of a group with the best interests of kids in mind and listening to that, I think, is the name of the game,” she said. “We need to try to stop and listen to what people need.”
Jurgens said that GIPS board members have to look at all options and listen to all of the different voices at the table. She said one strength she can bring to the GIPS board is collaboration.
“I want to be able to work with different team members and listen to the different experts that bring those pieces that are so important to the conversation because I am not an expert in every single area,” Jurgens said. “So I want to be able to consider those who know more about the different pieces than I do.”
Jurgens said she is a big proponent of teacher advocacy and will work to advocate for educators if elected to the GIPS board. She added the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important it is to support teachers and the work they do.
“The biggest thing we can do is to stop and listen and not just assume that we already have the answers,” Jurgens said. “We have to ask the teachers and the students how they feel, what they are seeing, what they like and what they don’t like. We have to ask the tough questions. Sometimes you get answers you do not like and that is how you improve.”
Jurgens said she is “absolutely crazy” about the GISH academies and loves the variety of opportunities available to GIPS students. She said she would like to see these opportunities expanded, and for students to be able to customize their own learning paths.
ope体育“We have to stay away from ‘one size fits all’ in education,” Jurgens said. “We need to consider the fact that Johnny does not learn anything like Timmy. We need to see what can we do to create some customization there so it is not just plan X. I think customization of a student’s education should be a priority.”
Representing taxpayer interests
Stueven said he is running for a seat on the GIPS board because he feels the taxpayers are not currently being represented. If elected, he said he has a long history of working for the taxpayer and is not afraid to say “no” to things that would cost them more money.
“I think the taxpayers are just not being represented. I think there are a lot of people out there that get caught up in spending other people’s money; it needs to end,” Stueven said.
“I am not afraid to say ‘no’ and be the only one saying so; not many people will do that. There are so many people who want to go, ‘Well the whole board wants to go this way, so I feel we should be unanimous.’”
ope体育Stueven cited Starr and Stolley Park elementary schools being built a few blocks away from each other and the cost to make improvements to Memorial Stadium as examples of what he believes to be GIPS wasting taxpayer dollars.
ope体育“I don’t know why everybody thinks people are so willing to get rid of the money in their pockets, especially during times like this,” he said. “A lot of people are out of work. GIPS is just not being responsible with the taxes at all.”
Stueven said he wants to see Northwest High School turned into a neighborhood school that is under GIPS’ control. If elected, he said he would put forth a plan that would sell Northwest High School to GIPS. He guessed the cost would be around $40 million.
“We (GIPS) would give them (Northwest) a substantial amount of money to go out and build a school beyond our (GIPS’) area and our influence and have their school district,” Stueven said. “If they built their own school, they could close all these other schools and have that. If they do not want to do that, then maybe it makes sense to actually have negotiations where we just take that district over.”
Stueven said that while he is supportive of the academies at GISH, he believes this should not be the only option for students. He said parents and students are supportive of this as 1,000 GIPS parents option into Northwest High School to get a traditional education.
ope体育Stueven said he would like to see trades pushed more in the academies model, with students getting a “taste of almost everything” that is offered at a community college.
“Then, they can focus a lot more to get right on it so that when they go to college, they are hitting the ground running,” he said. “They can already explore these areas, so they are not getting into it and, a month later, changing. That is damaging to them as there is so much to make up. If we can avoid that, that is great.”
Markham did not immediately respond to The Independent’s requests for an interview.
However, in January, Markham, a 14-year member of the Hall County Weed Board, said the main reason he is running for a Ward A seat on the GIPS board is he wants teachers to have the ability to be armed to protect themselves and their students.
“I want teachers to have guns for their own protection, but also to protect children in case a nut case comes in with a gun and starts shooting people,” he said.
ope体育If elected to the GIPS board, Markham said, he would also work toward building a larger school for troubled youths.
“They’ve got a special school for them now, but I think we need a bigger school,” he said. “I would build a special school for the at-risk kids. There is some money left in the bond department (fund) and we can use that money to build that for the kids who are troublemakers.”
Markham said companies like Case IH and Hornady Manufacturing need to hire more people who are “computer smart” and he would work to get more computer teachers in the schools if elected to the GIPS board.
ope体育He added he is not afraid to speak his mind and knows how government works after serving on the Hall County Weed Board for 14 years.
“I know how government works. It works kind of slow,” Markham said. “But when I get on the (GIPS) board, I am going to try to speed things up a bit.”