North Union board gets organized

ARMSTRONG – As North Union’s interim board met for the first time Monday evening, the election of positions brought out a concern of “us versus them.”

The five-member board contains three members of Armstrong-Ringsted’s board – Jim Boyer, Jen Von Bank and George Walker – and two members of the Sentral board – Ron Dacken and Cory Culbertson.

For elections of interim secretary, A-R secretary Erin Rogers was elected over Sentral’s secretary Joni Underwood by a 3-2 vote. A-R’s school board members voted for Rogers and Sentral’s members voting for Underwood. Jim Boyer, currently A-R’s school board president was elected as North Union’s board president on a 4-1 vote, while Jen Von Bank was voted vice-president on a 3-2 vote. On both president and vice-president, Culbertson nominated Dacken. Votes were made by individual ballot.

Culbertson voiced some concern when it came time to select an interim superintendent between Sentral superintendent Art Pixler and A-R’s superintendent Matt Berninghaus.

“I’ve had phone calls from Armstrong residents in regard to Matt being superintendent instead of Art,” he stated. “They are worried about Sentral being outvoted.”

While those citizens who reportedly voiced concerns were not in attendance at the meeting, Culbertson said some of the concerns he heard were in regard to qualifications or having enough experience, and relying on A-R’s previous superintendent Randy Collins heavily as a mentor.

“In regards to the public perception of a ‘buddy-buddy’ system, I am an independent thinker,” Von Bank responded. “I’ve always been that way, and my vote will go in the way that is the best for the school. My vote is based on fact, not because I’m from Armstrong.”

Von Bank went on to explain how Berninghaus has helped the school get in good financial shape by following the direction started by Collins.

“As for mentors, I’m a nurse and I have mentors from 10 years ago that I still rely on,” she said. “I know Art (Pixler) is a great guy; both of them are. But I know our experience we’ve had with Matt, and that’s why I nominated him. … He helped set that course and it made A-R stronger.”

Berninghaus was voted in as interim superintendent on a 3-2 vote, with Boyer, Von Bank and Walker voting yes, and Dacken and Culbertson voting no.

The board will be able to appoint the permanent superintendent between Jan. 20 and July 1.

At the close of the meeting, newly-appointed president Boyer offered some advice for his new board.

“The idea behind a board is to be proactive,” he said. “We have to make some unpopular and some popular decisions. But we need to remember the decisions are the board’s decisions, and once we leave here, we leave as a board. It does us no good as a board member to go out and second guess it.”

The Armstrong-Ringsted board also held its monthly meeting Monday. Business included approving the early retirement and resignations of teachers Karen Folkers and Kim Stinson, to be effective at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

“Both of these teachers had their entire teaching careers at Armstrong-Ringsted, which is something that is very rare,” Berninghaus said.

Folkers teaches upper level math and a physics course, while Stinson is a physical education teacher who taught at the elementary level for most of her career before being moved up to the high school level when A-R entered the whole-grade sharing agreement with Sentral and North Kossuth.