With four positions available and seven candidates, there is passion for education amongst patrons of USD 428 Great Bend. While board member Cheryl Rugan held onto her seat, she was joined by three new faces. The front-running winner of Tuesday’s election, Susan Young, is a recently retired teacher for Lincoln Elementary School. Another newcomer to the Board of Education is Lori Reneaux, who has been the president of the Park Elementary School booster club for the past seven years. Chris Umphres, currently the sports director at the Great Bend Recreation Commission, has been a long time community supporter.
When the Barton County Clerk’s office released the unofficial vote count, the results were: Young, 1,126; Rugan, 884; Umphres, 691;Reneau, 639; Bender, 533; Williams, 381; Hestand, 339. The count will not be made official until after the Barton County Commissioners canvas the vote Monday morning.
Don Williams, who taught secondary education and coached wrestling at Hanston and Lyons over an 18-year-span, was understandably disappointed to have lost, but was pleased to hear who the winners were. “I had wanted to give it a try, and to use my experience to help out the school system.”
Mark Hestand, who recently moved to Great Bend said he was pleased there were seven good people that signed up and were willing to serve the community.
“I wish the four who won the best of luck,” he said. “They will do a good job.”
In the coming year, the new board members will set policy that will help teachers and administrators to continue to implement new teaching technology, MTSS, to help students on their path to College and Career Readiness. While the district has historically been able to weather the state’s ongoing education spending shortfalls, the next couple of years may prove to be some of the toughest ever, and this board will be tasked with making tough decisions.
“The heart of education in our community is beating in the students, the families and the teachers of USD 428, and that’s where our priority needs to be,” said Young upon hearing she had won her seat. “We really have a vested interest in how these kids do, and I’m excited to serve with these people.”
Reneau could not be reached for comment before publication.
Umphres was pleased to hear the voters had chosen him to represent them.
“I’m excited to be a part of this board,” he said. “I look forward to continuing with the fiscally sound approach that has been in place with the district.”
Rugan has seen USD 428 through a bond issue to build the Great Bend Middle School gymnasium, implementation of new teaching curriculums and technology, and the switch over to a new administration following the retirement of long-time superintendent Tom Vernon in 2014. The voters have given her a nod to continue their leadership.
I am honored to be part of the district. Its been a great experience,” Rugan said. “I appreciate the vote of confidence, and am humbled to have been chosen to continue serving.”
Her fellow board member for the past four years, Doug Bender, however, will be moving off the board at the end of June. He could not be reached for comment before publication.