The Nebraska State Board of Education’s annual meeting, which was to elect its leaders, was usually a routine and straightforward proceeding, but debates on topics such as urban-rural disparities stalled and debated. developed into
After electing Patti Gubbels as chairman of the board by a 5-3 vote on Thursday, the board struggled to reach consensus on the vice chair, reaching a deadlock that dragged the meeting for over an hour.
In a 4-4 stalemate, the votes were probably split along partisan lines, but after 10 rounds of secret ballots, Kirk Penner won the fifth vote in favor of Patsy Koch-Johns. defeated.
Gabbels, who was first elected to the board in 2020, represents Northeast Nebraska’s District 3, while Penner represents District 5, which includes Southern Lancaster County and Southern Lincoln. Aurora’s Penner was appointed to the board in December 2021 and was elected in November.
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Thursday’s stagnation could be the outlook for the board, which welcomed two new members on Thursday, Republicans Shelly Jones and Elizabeth Tegtmeyer.
Jones replaced Maureen Nickels in the Central Nebraska 6th District, while Tegtmeyer defeated incumbent Robin Stevens in November to represent the Western Nebraska 7th District.
Penner and Gabbels are other Republicans registered on the official nonpartisan commission tasked with finding incoming commissioners for the Nebraska Department of Education.
The current chairman of the board, Koch-Johns of Lincoln, nominated Jacklin Morrison of Omaha for president, and Penner nominated Gabbels.
The board chose Gabbels after Morrison prepared a speech in which he said he could be president of a million.
But after that quick vote, the board stopped at the vice-chairman Stevens held last year, with Tegtmeyer, Jones and Gubbels ostensibly behind Penner.
“We serve the entire state,” said Omaha’s Deborah Neary, prolonging the impasse. And we have a very large urban population that we cannot represent.” If Penner wins.
Tegtmeier objected to that assessment, arguing that the board members represented an equal number of members. But Morrison said there is a difference between students who go to urban schools and those who go to rural schools.
Koch-Johns, a former teacher at Lincoln High School, has experience in both environments and has served on the board for many years, Morrison claimed.
“She was every student’s teacher at every turn,” Morrison said.
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Interim Commissioner Deb Frison finally closed the debate as the vote continued.
The Board Chairman, together with the Commissioner, is responsible for setting the agenda, making committee assignments, and determining when the Board will make public comments at meetings. Vice-Chairs can assume additional responsibilities, such as acting as the President’s representative in his absence and executing public comments during meetings.
The Board will return to the Innovation Campus on Friday for its regular meeting.
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