GIPS swears in new board, tabs new president and vice president

Local4 News at 10
Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 10:53 PM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - It’s a changing of the guard in a major way for Grand Island Public Schools, as five new school board members got sworn in Thursday night. Immediately after, the new board elected a brand new president and vice president.

GIPS held a special school board meeting Thursday night to welcome in the new members, but the board also addressed a few key issues including new officers and the district’s search for an interim superintendent.

First, the board tended to the election of its officers for the next calendar year. Incumbent Board President Lisa Albers was nominated for another term as board president, but she had a challenger in first-year board member Hank McFarland. In a 5-4 vote, the new board selected McFarland as the next GIPS board president, and despite the split vote, McFarland says he know the future for both the board and the district is bright.

”We’re all adults, and we’re all going to get along, and we’re going to disagree,” McFarland said. “When you look back at the Constitutional Congress back in 1787, because of those disagreements, they produced the greatest document in the history of mankind, so we’re going to get along, but we are going to disagree, but we’re going to agree to disagree on certain issues.”

After McFarland unseated Albers, the board shifted its focus to the vice presidency, which was left vacant after incumbent Carlos Barcenas did not earn re-election. In another 5-4 vote, Dave Hulinsky earned the role, and in an exclusive interview with Local4, he said earning the office brought why he ran for school board in the first place full circle.

“As soon as more and more people kept pushing, and they were all teachers saying we’re not being heard, we’re not being heard, we’re not being heard or we don’t feel like we’re being heard, so I said you know what, let me look into this a little bit more,” Hulinsky said. “I looked into it, and I decided to throw my hat into the ring probably about two weeks prior to the deadline. Lo and behold, I ended up winning by 16 votes, and then it got really real. That’s kind of my whole thing. Even though we are here for the kids, somebody’s gotta be here for the teachers, too.”

The newly structured board then went into executive session to talk about the district’s search for an interim superintendent after the resignation of Dr. Tawana Grover. After more than an hour of discussion, the board came back with its first order of business.

”We have some wonderful candidates that the NASB has provided for us, and we’re going to extend offers to interview them,” McFarland said. “We have selected three out of the group, and we’re going to extend invitations to interview them, and that’s the biggest thing right now is to get that going.”

Of the five new board members Thursday night, nobody on the board had to fight as much for her seat as Ward C’s top vote-getter Katie Mauldin. Thursday night, she joined her peers in the board room and was sworn into her seat. However, it was a seat she didn’t know she would get to keep after a concluded GIPS investigation announced the district’s intention to vacate her seat over residency concerns.

After Mauldin provided 18 forms of proof of address to GIPS, the Hall County Election Commissioner’s Office and the Hall County Attorney, she still wasn’t out of the woods. It wasn’t until more than a week later that both the Hall County Attorney’s Office and Election Commissioner’s Office came back with their results from investigations into Mauldin. Both investigations confirmed that Mauldin was in fact a Ward C resident.

Mauldin, took her seat Thursday night, and in another exclusive interview with Local4, she said she had a message for those who voted for her back in November.

“Thank you for voting for me, and I’m glad I’m able to take my seat, and I’m ready to help get the job done and support our school system and our teachers and education,” she said. “I’m ready to just rock it.”

Mauldin is also one of four candidates turned board members who either received formal backing or support from the political action committee Chaperone., but new school board president Hank McFarland says the group supported them to earn a seat, but they will not impact how they act and vote now that they have the seat.

“We are going to disagree with each other,” McFarland said. “I mean, there’s no doubt about it that the four of us supported by this group are going to disagree, and Chaperone is a political action committee, and they’re going to move on to the next thing. They’re going to be here for a long time because they’re going to be vetting other candidates. So, we’re done. We just move forward.”

The new board and its new leadership will hold the next regularly scheduled school board meeting on Thursday, January 12.