Grand Island Public Schools says its goodbyes, but ’embraces the future’

Grand Island Public Schools says its goodbyes, but ’embraces the future’

GRAND ISLAND — The sweeping changes in the Grand Island School District were evident at this month’s Board of Education meeting.

At the end of the meeting, the Board of Education had confirmed Tawana Grover’s resignation as principal. It was also the last meeting of board members Terry Brown, Dan Brosz, Carlos Barcenas, Bonnie Hinkle and Erika Wolfe.


Members of the Grand Island Public Schools Board of Education stand together following Superintendent Tawana Grover’s latest meeting, along with outgoing board members Terry Brown, Bonnie Hinkle, Erika Wolfe, Dan Brosz and Carlos Barcenas. Pictured left to right are: Brown, Hinkle, Josh Hawley, Wolfe, Brosz, Grover, Barcenas, Lisa Albers, Lindsey Jurgens and Dave Hulinsky.

Jessica Votipka, The Independent

Brown, Brosz and Barcenas lost their seats in the November elections. Hinkle and Wolfe had chosen not to run. Their successors watched the meeting from the audience.

Hinkle, who was first elected to the board in 2007, said: “It all boils down to that as a board member, even if you’ve come to the board for different reasons, you quickly find that you have this narrow focus on good must have for kids.”

Brown later said he agreed with Hinkle, adding that it’s “easy to say — it’s really hard to do” to put kids first.

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Hinkle said, “What might be best for teachers — what teachers want … what might be best for parents — what parents want — may not always be best for children.”

Grover’s resignation takes effect Jan. 11, around the time that dramatic changes will take place on the nine-member education board.

Grover, the state’s first black superintendent and Grand Island’s first female superintendent, announced her retirement earlier this month after seven years in the district.

Criticism of Grover has mounted in recent months, including in the run-up to the 2022 general election, which saw challengers flip many of the board seats.

“It’s the same for all of us,” said CEO Lisa Albers, looking emphatically in the direction of the participants during the monthly meeting.

“(Grover) has our complete and unconditional support to the last day that she is in this district.

“And that will never change.”

Grover will remain a county employee through June 30.

Beginning January 11, she will assume an advisory role, working with the district’s interim superintendent as needed while the district searches for a new leader. During this time she is “on call” and will “not attend to the regular duties of Superintendent of Schools”.

Grover will be paid her salary for 2023-24 ($294,199, before withholding taxes) in one lump sum. After that payment in July, the agreement states that “Grover shall not be entitled to any additional funds or additional payments from the District unless otherwise mutually agreed in writing.”

When asked about her future, Grover gave no details about her plans, but said being on Grand Island has kept her away from her family, who live “far away.” Grover said she intends to continue being a children’s advocate.

The resignation agreement includes non-denigration provisions, meaning Grover is prohibited from criticizing the district in any way and in any form of communication and is to make “supportive comments for potential interim superintendents and superintendent candidates.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the district must provide in-kind benefits to Grover.

After the meeting, Grover said she will have no say in choosing her successor.

“This selection process is the sole responsibility of the Board of Education. I have no role to play,” she said.

“I will definitely help once they nominate an interim with a smooth transition to ensure they understand the ongoing work.”

Following the adjournment, Albers expressed both confidence and concern about the Superintendent selection process.

“We will know the right person,” she said. “We will not hire anyone who is not the right person.”

However, Albers said she believes the course of the recent election and some attitudes shared on social media will affect the pool of applicants.

“Do you really think that with all the power struggles that are going on here, they want to come to Grand Island? And the bullying and the intentional bias and unintentional bias and misogyny — the racism?” Albers said of potential superintendent candidates. “No, it will be very difficult and (the) community needs to strengthen. You must help us.”

The community, Hinkle noted during the meeting, is very different from when she became a board member 16 years ago.

“The city is not the same, the school district is not the same – but that’s ok. We celebrate the past and welcome the future.”

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