Sally J. Berger easily secured a hold on the leading position and a four-year term on the Atchison Public Schools USD 409 Board of Education on Tuesday night, with fellow newcomer Pam Rizza also expected to serve the same term with a comfortable second-place showing.
Berger said she’s looking forward to the opportunities presented with her being a new board member overseeing Superintendent Renee Scott, PhD, who took office in July in place of now-retired district leader Susan Myers.
“So you know we just have to let her do her job. That’s the first priority,” Berger said. “Then, after that, we just have to see where it leads us. We are hired to decide, I guess you could say, ‘Yay,’ or ‘Nay,’ on the superintendent, but she ultimately has to run the course. And so, we just go from there.”
Stefanie Gardner appears to have unseated Herb Gwaltney, amassing 719 votes over Gwaltney’s 665. If all 27 provisional ballots which remained to be counted on the night of Tuesday, Nov. 5, are determined to be valid and all of them include votes for Gwaltney and not Gardner, the race would be tied and decided by any outstanding mail-in votes.
However, the final tally may be fairly unpredictable as each voter had the option of selecting anywhere between three candidates, or no candidates. Anyone who selected more than 3 would be counted as an over-vote and have the board of education section of their ballot invalidated.
Mail in votes must be postmarked for Nov. 5 or earlier and received by the Atchison County Clerk’s Office by 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8. As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, Berger obtained 1,077 votes, making her the most popular candidate of the night in any race held throughout Atchison County. Rizza received 826 votes.
Rizza said she wants to do all she can to back up district leaders and teachers, particularly on the issues of student conduct and wellness.
“I think in the past there’s been issues with discipline, and teachers not feeling supported in carrying out a policy of discipline and accountability,” Rizza said. “I know Renee (Scott) is putting policies in place to make those steps clearer, but I think that’s a good goal for the next couple of years.”
In addition to Gwaltney, candidates John E. Bishop and Josh Wheeler did not secure a seat on the board based on preliminary Tuesday results. Bishop obtained 549 votes, and Wheeler obtained 439 votes.
Atchison Globe has been previously informed that Wheeler intended to move to another community and that he made this decision before the election, but couldn’t have his name removed from the ballot in time.
Gwaltney has served on the board for many years and has until recently served as board president, a position which a regular member of the board assumes on the basis of votes by his or her colleagues.