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The Mid-Prairie school board is back at full strength.
At Monday’s meeting, the board appointed Gerry Kahler to fill the vacancy left by longtime board member Jim Hussey’s resignation last month.
The board made the appointment after hearing statements from two people interested in the seat: Kahler and Kristy Newton.
Kahler has served as pastor of the Kalona United Methodist Church for the past 10 years.
“I never thought about doing this until last year during the meetings to reorganize the elementary schools,” Kahler said. “Opinions matter, and one person can make a difference.”
Kahler disclosed that his wife is an associate at Mid-Prairie East Elementary School, and his son is head custodian at the same school.
Board President Jeremy Pickard questioned Kahler as to how having family working for the district would impact his actions if appointed to the board.
“I would recuse myself in any matters involving them,” Kahler responded. “The only honorable thing to do is to say ‘I can’t be part of that discussion.’”
Newton, a neo-natal nurse practitioner, said that she has lived in the district for 12 years and has children in the district.
“I never thought about running for a seat until I was on the volunteer policy committee this summer,” Newton said. “I like how each person can have an impact.”
After Pickard called for a nomination, there was a long silence.
Superintendent Mark Schneider broke the silence, pointing out that the board had a third option: Calling for a special election.
Schneider’s statement was followed by more silence. Pickard said he interpreted the silence as board members trying to decide between two good candidates.
Board Vice President Marianne Schlabach finally nominated Kahler, with Jodi Meader seconding the motion. Kahler was appointed unanimously.
Kahler was sworn in immediately following the vote.
Prior to the vote, former board member Randy Billups, who lost a special election in August to Emily Uhl, withdrew his name from consideration.
Following the vote, Billups made a statement, saying he wanted to dispel some misinformation he believed had been spreading in the district.
“I do not have a secret agenda,” Billups said. “I just want to make Mid-Prairie the best school for my grandchildren and the community.”
He also said that he was not advocating to undo the elementary school restructuring that was done last year.
“That would get us nowhere,” he said.