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Grand Forks School Board appoints new leadership, sends off longtime members – Grand

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GRAND FORKS – Meet the new School Board, same as the old School Board.

More or less.

The Grand Forks School Board reconvened Monday evening with a largely-unchanged lineup but new leadership and further change on the horizon.

Newcomer Jay Kleven joined the board as it saluted its outgoing student members and longtime board member Cynthia Shabb, who elected not to run for reelection this year due to her added responsibilities as program director of the Global Friends Coalition.

Superintendent Terry Brenner praised Shabb, who has served on the board for several non-successive terms, for her commitment to equity and to underserved students in the district.

Shabb, in turn, defended her focus on district operations (the state school boards association has pressured school boards to focus on policy questions) and implored the board to continue advancing equity in its policies.

“I encourage all of you to continue to ask those hard questions, because it’s because of that, that education is what it is, and grows and shapes our students,” she said.

Brenner also offered a send-off to student members Maggie Barker and Ryaan Alshami, both of whom graduated this spring.

Barker will attend Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. while Alshami will matriculate at Binghamton University in New York.

One new student member, incoming junior Adrianna Tande of Grand Forks Central High School, was sworn in Monday; her counterpart, McKayla Sigini, an incoming junior at Red River, will be sworn in at the next meeting.

Board members voted in last term’s Vice President Dave Berger as the new board president, following a long-standing tradition of the VP taking on the top seat, per long-time board member Eric Lunn.

Board member Monte Gaukler nominated past President Amber Flynn to the position, and voted against Berger; she explained to the Herald she did not oppose Berger’s candidacy, but appreciated Flynn’s tenure during last year’s tumult and wanted to see her continue in the top spot.

Members also voted to appoint Josh Anderson to the VP role.

Gaukler also announced plans to step down at the end of the month, citing family plans to relocate from Grand Forks to be closer to her children and grandchildren.

She made her plans known in a letter of resignation included in the School Board’s agenda packet.

Gaukler’s resignation is effective July 31, and the board has 60 days – until Sept. 29 – to fill the seat, which is up for reelection in 2026.

Under a plan recommended by administrators and approved by the School Board, the board will hold a two-week application period beginning Aug. 5 to solicit interest in the open seat. Interested parties must file an application for the open seat by 4 p.m. on Aug. 19.

Board members are expected to pick the new board member from the applicant pool, though former Board President Amber Flynn told the Herald the board was not necessarily obligated to pick from the applicant pool.

The last person to be appointed to the School Board was Jeff Manley in 2019; he’s since been reelected twice.

The board is expected to next meet July 22 by Zoom to appoint committee members and for a first look at the 2024-25 budget, which will receive preliminary approval from the board in August.

The board typically does not meet twice in July, but Brenner said the meeting was a necessity due to a time crunch caused by this year’s calendar.

In other news:

  • Board members approved Stacey Skarperud as the new principal of Benjamin Franklin Elementary School. Skarperud replaces Joshua Mailhot, whose contract was not renewed after a board vote in April. Skarperud most recently served as an instructional coach in the district.
  • The district is expected to receive an estimated $4.3 million in federal Title funds this year. The district is waiting on confirmation of its final allocation from the state, Assistant Superintendent Matt Bakke said, after which administrators will submit its budget for use of the federal funds back to the state for approval. 
  • The board also approved a land swap of one parcel on Gateway Drive for another, privately-owned parcel adjacent to the site of the Career Impact Academy. The approval is contingent on the school district receiving clarification on the nature of the ownership of the parcel ahead of signing a contract.
  • Prairie Farms will serve as the district’s prime milk vendor in 2024-25 after it outbid current vendor Cass-Clay Creamery for the contract. 
  • Lastly, the board, acting as the Grand Forks School District Building Authority, appointed new officers for the district. The Building Authority has historically issued bonds to finance the construction of school sites, which are “leased” by the district proper, but the Building Authority has not been used in some time and has been debt free since 2015.

Joshua Irvine covers K-12 and higher education as well as the Grand Forks County Commission for the Grand Forks Herald. He joined the Herald in October 2023.

Read More: Grand Forks School Board appoints new leadership, sends off longtime members – Grand

2024-07-09 14:34:57

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