Updated Nov. 8 with comments from Lori Hertel.
With four new members, the Hays USD 489 school board could have a new dynamic in approaching issues after January.
The two incumbents, Luke Oborny and Paul Adams, did not garner enough votes to retain their seats. Both have served one four-year term on the board.
The top vote getters among the nine candidates in Tuesday’s unofficial results were Tammy Wellbrock with 2,535; Allen Park with 1,913; Craig Pallister with 1,689; and Lori Ann Hertel with 1,317.
Votes will be audited Friday, with canvassing Nov. 14.
Wellbrock and Pallister, reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, both said communication will be important in building trust with a board that has sometimes seen friction in negotiations with teachers and within the community.
Pallister, who was a middle school principal in the district for 21 years, said publicizing to the public and within the district the good things that the board is doing would be an important step. He would like to see a staff position dedicated to that.
“That was one of my big things is a public relations person that we can publicize the good things in the district and then be very transparent with the community of what our needs are, because we don’t get that information out,” he said.
Wellbrock, a self-employed business consultant and the former CEO of the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce, said the message will be important.
“Developing trust is truly about remaining consistent with messaging,” she said. “If I say communication is important to me, I can’t punish someone for doing what I’m asking them to do.”
Hertel said listening to the staff and community is important, but the board should go a step beyond.
“Not just listen but also bring their concerns to the attention of the board and act on some of the concerns,” she said. “Some of them we may not be able to act on, but at least be attentive to those,” she said.
Wellbrock said she hopes the vote count is reflective of voters wanting that trust with the board members.
“I know I’m going to make error, and I know I’m going to make people unhappy. But I have really tried to maintain as much transparency in my world that I had both in personal and business worlds,” she said.
Wellbrock and Hertel both said they will be busy trying to learn as much as they can before taking office.
“I believe my first step needs to be to understand what I don’t know,” Wellbrock said.
Wellbrock campaigned with a “listening tour” of district staff.
“Now I just need to round out some of that and figuring out what I should be remains true too. There’s a lot of people that have opinions on what I should do, but some of those opinions and some of the feedback I received isn’t really the role of a school board member. So I really want to understand some of those foundations aspects,” she said.
She said wants to approach her work on the board with respect to what has been accomplished by current and previous board members.
“There’s going to be two months of work done by the existing board. I want to be able to reflective and respectful of the work they’ve done and then where do we take it from there,” she said.
Pallister noted the four new members of the board are all “pro-public schools.” Park is also a former USD 489 principal, and all the new members have children or even grandchildren who are or were students of the district.
“That’s not always happened,” Pallister said.
“All of decisions need to be made by answering the question is it good for the children,” Pallister said.
Hertel said the board should begin looking quickly to a bond proposal, especially after a presentation at the Nov. 4 meeting by Rusty Lindsay, director of buildings and grounds.
He told the board that some of the buildings are in need of substantial work that cannot be paid by capital outlay.
“I’m not sure where we’re at as far as a bond, but we’re running out of time and we’re going to have to move forward,” he said at that meeting, naming O’Loughlin Elementary School as a priority.
“That’s going to take a lot of work and pain and everything else to make sure we get that right. But that’s going to be the beginning step is we’re going to have to start looking at that,” she said.
Getting the community involved from the beginning in forming the proposal will be an important aspect of getting a bond passed, she said. She said people have already approached her with ideas.
“I think they need to be informed. I think they need to be educated, and I think they need to be involved in the decision making of that as well,” she said.
“People I have talked to have wanted the bond, but they want to make sure it’s done right,” she said.