NEBRASKA CITY – School board candidates noted the typical topics of taxes, staffing and student achievement at Wednesday’s candidate forum, but also highlighted shifting perspectives on the institution of public education itself.

 

Stacie Higgins: “One of the biggest issues I see right now in Nebraska and in our country is support of public education. I’m not sure when we decided that public education was the target, but it’s happening and it makes me sad for our staff and our students who work hard everyday.”

 

Christopher Ely: “I’m a conservative in politics, religion, social issues and economics. I find conservatism to be the belief that our forefathers spent sweat and blood learning the hard lessons about the truth, that we must learn from the imperfect knowledge they passed on down to us and carefully improve upon it, not to risk the destruction of all they have built through the hubris  of so-called progressivism.”

Stephen Luther: “You really have to change the lens of which you look at things when you’re on a board like this. It’s not about what is best for me or best for my kid, it’s what is best for all kids and what is best for the district as a whole.

Luther: "You can’t look from just your own personal perspective on things because every kid is different, every family situation is different. You have to prepare. You have to think of things. You have to shift your mind just a little bit and think from the perspective of all kids.”

Ely: "I not only opposed critical race theory, I hate Marxism and its derivative ideologies, including CRT, root, twig, branch and fruit. They are evil in their thinking and ruinous in action."

Nebraska City voters rejected a levy override and the school has since reported a reduction in debt and termination of a line of credit. The failed levy override and recent uproar over mask mandates and health standards are impacting this election cycle.

Robert Elson: “I think where we’re struggling in Nebraska City is getting parents involved, struggling getting the community involved. Some of that is based on the transparency issues that we’ve had. A lot of the community members, people who have reached out to me the last month or so, they feel like everybody is trying to hide something.

Elson: "I don’t buy into that. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I’ve talked to a lot people here, a lot of people who are sitting out there, and I think everybody wants what’s best for our children and I think that’s where we need to focus on --  these opportunities where we can come together as a community. I think this is going to be a fresh start.”

 

Brent Shanholtz: “I want to share, as a citizen of Nebraska City, a sense of pride I felt with the town hall and navigating through that levy override process, regardless of the vote. I felt a connection and a transparency to a process that made me feel engaged in the public schools that are supporting my community.”

Incumbent challenger Christopher Ely held up a printout that graphed the academic achievement of Nebraska’s schools with Nebraska City scoring toward the bottom.

 

Kent Blum: “It’s good to show graphs on where we sit in the state. I’m fine with that, but you also have to take into account the other pages on that Nebraska Department of Education website where it says we have a 52 percent free and reduced lunch, we have 23 percent English learners, we have 23 percent special education –and this is all above average – and we’re below state average in high ability learners.”

Higgins: “Our students present some of the most important issues. The post-pandemic world has revealed a lot to us about society. Our students need a lot. Mental health care is a top priority. Academic resources in a post-pandemic world, these are all things we have to keep at the forefront, but also that our staff is well taken care of so they can help move the needle on all of these things.”

Ely credited the voters for rejecting the levy override and forcing debt reduction without higher taxes, but Blum said some of the cost reductions have been because the school is not able to find people to hire.

Candidates endorsed by The Protect Nebraska Children PAC, Rick Bennie, Melissa McClanahan and Wynee Benedict did not attend the candidate forum.

Ely said he became involved to oppose sexual education standards proposed by the state and says the community must safeguard against harmful ideologies in the school curriculum.