‘Chaperone’ candidates talk future after election night wins

Local4 News at 10
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 10:58 PM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The Grand Island Public School Board is ushering in a new wave of members following Tuesday night’s election.

Two seats in Ward A were up for grabs Tuesday night, and as of late Wednesday night, the two leading candidates for the seats are backed by the political action committee Chaperone. Josh Sikes leads the way with 24% of the vote (2,097 votes) while Amanda Wilson is right behind him with 23% of the vote (1,983 votes).

Right behind Wilson, though, is incumbent Terry Brown with 22% of the vote (1,956 votes), and that’s the reason the race is not final. With only 27 votes separating Wilson and Brown, the winner of the second seat of Ward A is still not final. The Hall County Commissioner’s Office is still in the process of counting all of the provisional ballots from the election, and once those are all counted, they’ll release the final numbers.

However, one thing is for certain, and it’s that write-in candidate Josh Sikes has won one of the two available seats for Ward A, making the 2022 midterm election an historical one. Sikes told Local4 that his first order of business will be focusing on the district’s teachers.

“Recruiting retention of teachers,” Sikes said. “We can talk about curriculums and all of this stuff, but man, if we don’t have great educators to educate our students, none of that is going to matter.”

In Ward B, Chaperone saw another candidate earn a seat on the school board as Hank McFarland more than doubled the votes of challenger Tim Mayfield Tuesday night.

“It’s heartwarming to me that there’s enough people out there that want to see a positive change and want to see good things happen to kids and teachers and get out to vote and make their voices heard,” McFarland told Local4 after his election night win.

The board upheaval didn’t end there Tuesday night, as Ward C saw incumbent Carlos Barcenas finish with the lowest vote total of the four candidates available. Barcenas was the school board’s vice president, which makes Tuesday night’s results even more of a surprise for some.

What’s next is more waiting. The Hall County Election Commissioner’s office will finalize the results, and it will then be known if it’s Terry Brown or Amanda Wilson earning the second Ward A seat. Regardless of how that shakes out, Sikes says he knows the transition to this new-look school board will likely be tense at first.

“I know there’s going to be presumed mindsets about how they may view me as a leader and how they may view me as a board member,” Sikes said. “I’m just hopeful that they might understand that I have a track record of integrity and leadership that would speak against maybe any of those preconceived mindsets.”

For McFarland, he says he can’t wait to continue his family line within GIPS, as both of his parents were teachers in the district.

“Growing up in a family of educators and knowing day to day basis what teachers go through,” McFarland said. “This is refreshing to know that I’m possibly going to play a part moving the ball forward when it comes to teachers and the things they need to do their jobs better and also to help kids.”

If Wilson wins the second seat in Ward A, that will mark a total of five new faces on the Grand Island school board after just one election, which could lead to some pretty contentious meetings if conversations don’t stay civil. However, Sikes says all the board members are adults and their own individual, and he’s ready to tackle the tougher issues that may have not been getting addressed.

“I’m not intimidated by the mess that we might be stepping into and being a part of that,” Sikes said. “It’s going to be great. I truly think it’s going to be a great experience, and I feel it’s going to be great for the families and students of Grand Island.”

When the polls closed on Tuesday, Chaperone leaders did take to their Facebook page to issue a statement of thanks not only to their candidates, but also those who supported their efforts to cause change within GIPS.

Here is that full statement:

The polls are now closed. Thank you to the Grand Island community, the state of Nebraska, and everyone else who has noticed the efforts of Chaperone and offered support. We also want to say thank you to our candidates, Amanda, Josh, and Hank, for their willingness and desire to serve our community.

We've seen and heard you helping us to spread the word about what this organization is all about. Our page has reached more than 40,000 people over the duration of this campaign! This number could be much higher when we consider media coverage and word-of-mouth. No matter the outcome of the election, we are extremely proud of the strides we have taken to raise awareness of the issues we are fighting to take action on. The Chaperone team and our candidates are incredibly grateful for your support. None of this would be possible without you.

Our goal was to create conversation in the community, offer ourselves as part of a solution, and take a step towards change within GIPS.

Once again, no matter the results of this election, we can confidently say that your comments, conversation, debate, and support have helped us do just that. It's safe to say that traditionally, school board elections have not been this widely discussed, and we’re proud to have helped bring more awareness and participation from the community. Like all of you, we want to see a better Grand Island, a better GIPS, and a better future for our community.

Our teachers and the students still need our support. We believe that our community does and will continue to show that support.

Even if you don’t agree with the plausibility, distribution, or discussion of the GIPS Teacher Survey results, we do know that in Grand Island:

1. Teachers are leaving. We recognize that this is a problem across the nation, but that doesn’t mean that we need to stand idly while it happens in our own community. We need to consider that some of our teachers have left to teach in neighboring districts, though they continue to live in Grand Island. Why?

2. Many teachers right now aren’t willing to recommend employment at GIPS to other educators. Why?

3. Many teachers have stated that they don’t feel that their voices are being heard. Why?

4. Test scores are dropping while graduation rates are improving. Why?

We, as a community, need to come together and work to find answers to these questions.

Thank you to the entire community of Grand Island for your support in taking a step toward change.

Chaperone Facebook Page

Local4 did reach out to Grand Island Public Schools for comment on the election results already in, but they declined to provide one until all election results are final.