By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
With the start of the 2018-19 school year, a changing of the guard took place at Monday's Grand Island Board of Education reorganization meeting.
The board voted 5-1 to elect Ashli Dreher president, replacing Lisa Pyc; the board voted 5-1 to elect Sue Marston vice president, replacing Donna Tomkins, who voted "No" in both votes.
Trustee Glenn Bobeck made the nominations for president and vice president, seconded by Joy LaMarca. Bobeck and LaMarca were both re-elected to their trustee seats in May.
"I have a lot of respect for my colleagues on the board, so I will look to them for advice and input, and I think that's going to be a big part of the new leadership team," Dreher said after the meeting. "We may not always agree on things as a board, we may have differences of opinion, but listening to one another is paramount. We really need to hear everyone's perspective."
Dreher has been a trustee for one year and a special education teacher for 22 years.
"Coming from the Lewiston-Porter School District and being No. 8 overall in Business First, I would like to see Grand Island competitive, and I feel that Grand Island is a top-10 school district," she said. "I think our strategic plan is a good move in that direction."
Though she wasn't present at the meeting because of a health matter, Pyc sent an email to District Clerk Jude Kuehne that was read in the open session.
"I do have some concerns that I want to share. It was brought to my attention that there were a lot of side conversations for president and vice president of the board. I was not privy to those conversations. I reached out to Ashli and never received a phone call or a text response back," Pyc wrote, adding that she stands for openness and transparency in board work.
She listed several reservations with the change in leadership for the board.
"Consistency is needed. We have a lot of new people in the district and fairly new superintendent," Pyc wrote. "Our district continues to have massive change in leadership in various areas. Consistency from the board needs to be a priority."
She also said trustees need to speak to others in a professional manner.
"I am concerned with the side conversations that continually happen after the board meetings in the parking lots," she said. "I think that it portrays more of a divided and unprofessional and inappropriate board. All board discussions need to happen at the board table or in executive session."
She raised reservations with the time available to a new president and vice president.
"As I have served as the president, I have worked 100-plus percent. I have worked very hard in representing the Board of Education at all events, not just my children's events," she said. "I strongly feel that unless you have the time to give 100 percent, you shouldn't do it."
Pyc said the position of board president "is not about being in charge or having a title. It is working hard to represent the entire board, not half or just the president's view."
Pyc took an apparent slap at Marston, the wife of Republican Town Councilman Peter Marston.
"A lot of time is needed to represent the board and the community that voted us in. The best way possible to do this is by not taking sides and having the ability not to bring politics from the town and political parties' views. Joint town meetings should be about working together and not about attacking people with different views," Pyc said.
Tomkins agreed with much of what Pyc wrote.
"Not everyone is paying attention when we're up here," Tomkins said. "Like when we talked about eliminating the sixth-grade position. It seemed like a lot of people on this board didn't even know that we were doing that until someone brought it to our attention that we needed to keep that position."
Tomkins praised Pyc's work ethic as well. "Lisa gives 110 percent," Tomkins said. "This is like her full-time passion."
Dreher was the only trustee nominated for president. Tomkins said, "I would nominate Lisa, but I know none of you will second it, so ... ."
Asked what is on her president's agenda for the district, Dreher said. "I have a lot of ideas, but I think every one of us has different ideas that we'll bring to the table to discuss. I think, definitely, the focus is that Grand Island is a premier district."
Kuehne said she administered the oath of office to new trustee Robin McCreary on July 5. McCreary was elected in May along with incumbent trustees LaMarca and Bobeck.
Phase IV Capital Project
After the reorganization meeting, the board conducted its first regular meeting of the school year and received a presentation from Shawn Wright of Young & Wright Architects on the bids for Phase IV of the capital project.
Phase IV will include such work as HVAC upgrades to the high school library and computer room as well as remodeling the baseball diamonds in back of the high school into varsity baseball and softball diamonds with additional parking. The cost is approximately $1.4 million.
Afterwards, the board voted 6-0 to approve the recommended contractor's bids. Among them:
•Site contractor, Louis Del Prince & Sons, $781,600.
•General contractor, Sicoli Construction, $265,000.
•Mechanical contractor, John W. Danforth, $307,500.
•Electrical contractor, Weydman Electric, $62,900.
Brad Price spoke to the board about school safety during the public comment portion of the meeting in the light of recent school shootings.
"First, hold the person who allowed access to guns that are used to kill, injure or maim our children, their teachers and administrators, criminally liable along with the shooter," he said.
He advocated for a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, as well as an annual psychology check on each kid, teacher and administrative staff in school.
"Last but foremost, ask God to come back into the schools," he said.