SIOUX CITY -- Dan Greenwell, a longtime critic of Superintendent Paul Gausman and his administration, was elevated to president of the Sioux City school board Monday, and two newly-elected members joined the board.
By a 4-3 vote, Greenwell and Taylor Goodvin were elected president and vice president, respectively, taking over posts previously held by Perla Alarcon-Flory and Monique Scarlett, respectively.
Newly-elected board members Bob Michaelson and Jan George, in their first meeting, also voted for Greenwell and Goodvin. Juli Albert voted with Alarcon-Flory and Scarlett to make no change to the leadership of the seven-member board.
Alarcon-Flory and Scarlett made history last year by becoming the first pair of women to lead the school board. Alarcon-Flory also was the first Latina to be elected to any office in Woodbury County.
Scarlett, an African-American who founded the local diversity group Unity in the Community, thanked the former board for electing two women of color as president and vice president.
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“This not only made history, but it was overdue in our district, and so I salute you all,” she said.
Greenwell, a businessman who was a top executive with the former Terra Industries, emerged as a leading watchdog of the administration and school board several years ago.
Since joining the board in 2019, after winning his first, four-year term, he has continued to be outspoken on many issues, including the budget, standardized test scores and administrative salaries. He has frequently clashed with Gausman, who has led the Sioux City district, the state's third largest, since 2008.
In remarks after Monday's leadership election, Greenwell said each board member has a contribution to make based on their skill sets and experiences. He said his hope for the new board is to be more active in combating issues within the district.
"This new board should step into the breach," he said. "Grab a shovel. Pitch in. Put your skills to use. Actively participate. Help make positive improvements. The public has hired us to do such. The responsibility has been placed on our shoulders."
The best option for students and staff, he said, is to be honest, consistent and fair treatment with clear expectations.
Some of the changes he's hoping for include getting rid of unnecessary initiatives, reducing micromanagement, improving work culture and helping the teachers teach.
He said the main issue the board is facing is the retention and recruitment of teachers and staff.
During the portion of Monday's meeting reserved for board comments, Albert referenced the board's often combative environment. She asked Greenwell to lead through respect in his new leadership position and to not raise his voice during the meetings.
“Myself and others, you sometimes approach us by raising your voice, I can’t count the times I’ve heard you tell people in this room that they are lying, including our superintendent and other administrative staff,” she said.
Michaelson and George, both retired teachers, were the top two vote-getters in the Nov. 2 board election, where eight candidates competed for three open seats. Alarcon-Flory, the only incumbent to seek re-election, won the third seat.
Michaelson, 61, taught for 35 years, including 30 at West Middle School. George, 59, taught at West High for 31 years.
Both the new members were given an opportunity to introduce themselves at Monday's meeting. Both described areas they believe need to be improved within the district and schools.
Michaelson said Monday was an opportunity to get familiarized with the pace and flow of the meetings. George agreed, saying he's getting used to when to break into the conversation and when to listen.
Both said that the district's teacher retention rates, test scores, overuse of assessment programs and the frequent change and implementation of new programs all need improvement.
Michaelson said he wants to help guide the schools to produce citizens who are ready for what they choose to do next. He also said many of the district's problems are self-inflicted.
George said the board is able to address these issues, and that while board members may not always agree, the best work is a result of civil discourse and compromise.
The two new members succeed Jeremy Saint and Ron Colling on the board. Neither decided to run for another term.
Colling, who had served on the board since 2017, thanked the board, staff and community.
Saint also had served on the board since 2017. When asked what it is like to serve on the board, Saint would say it is challenging but rewarding. He said there were areas that the board made a positive impact on, but also areas that the board could have done differently.
A few things he believes the board did correctly included addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and improving the district's financial standing.
Gausman read a proclamation for each of the leaving board members, highlighting specific ways the individuals served on the board and the work they put into it.
A new board secretary was also appointed during the organizational meeting. Seaniece Heilman has replaced Cynthia Lloyd, a longtime board secretary. She will serve for a two-year term. Patty Blankenship was appointed as the district treasurer, for a two-year term. This was a continuation of her current term.