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Tibbels to preside over board

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, May 15, 2019
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Soon after Marsha Hafer made the motion to name him Decatur ISD’s school board president Monday, Charlie Tibbels paused before accepting the nomination.

Tibbels, who is beginning his second year on the board, asked for assurances from his fellow trustees to work together on behalf the district and to build trust with each other and the public.

“Some of the things we’ve faltered on in the last year was because we had a fundamental issue with trusting each other,” Tibbels said. “I want assurances from you six and the superintendent that as we move forward, that you would agree with me for each other and the stakeholders, and we have some students here, too, and to them, that we can work together and honor each other’s disagreements. I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next year. I think we can move forward from what’s gone on in the past year and get past those things with that assurance. I will only accept the nomination, if I can have those assurances that we can move forward, trust each other and act with a level of decorum that’s expected from someone in this position. So, can I have that assurance from you guys?”

After receiving approving nods from the rest of the trustees, Tibbels announced: “I accept the nomination.”

Tibbels replaces Cheri Boyd, who had served as president of the board since July. Boyd lost her re-election bid to the Place 2 seat to Chris Lowery May 4. Lowery and Thomas Houchin, the winner of the Place 1 election, were sworn in before the reorganization of board officers.

Along with Tibbels being named president, Matt Joiner was named vice president and Jennifer Wren board secretary. Joiner was the vice president prior to July when the board reorganized after a split vote to keep superintendent Judi Whitis in June.

Tibbels, a local attorney, acknowledged he is a relative newcomer to the board before accepting the nomination.

“Let’s talk for a minute why I wouldn’t be that person. Everyone understands that this is the start of my second year. I’ve only been a board of trustees member for one year,” Tibbels said. “I do think I would bring some things to the table, and my shortcomings I think I could learn quickly. But I do think I bring some skills that would bridge some communication to the board moving forward.

“I want some assurances from my fellow board members as we move through the process that you will have some grace for me as we move forward with some of my shortcomings as I learn the process,” Tibbels added. “I’m smart enough to know what some of those shortcomings are and how to leverage people that know things like Mr. [Matt] Joiner with his expertise with K through 12. Mrs. Hafer with her experience as a teacher. Mr. [Chris] Lowery as a business person.”

After the meeting, Tibbels said he is “cautiously optimistic” about taking on the role. He hopes to help the district improve its transparency and rebuild faith with the community.

“The district has been doing great,” Tibbels said. “There’s some things as a board that we have to work on. I think I addressed that when talking about the nomination. I talked about rebuilding some trust and basically just good quality, constructive and productive communications between the eight of us, including Dr. Whitis. And not being afraid to speak our mind, but at the same time use a level of decorum and constructiveness that are part of something like this … I appreciate the other trustees trusting me and hopefully they continue working with me for all those things we want – students being No. 1, fiscal responsibility and transparency. Those are all the things we are going to continue to work on.”

Tibbels said communication has recently improved on the board. He welcomed the two new trustees.

“I’m excited about the two new members and the energy they bring,” he said.

“We’re talking. We’re already starting down that path. I’m looking forward to getting input from some of the stakeholders and community members and being responsive to what they want within what we can do under the law. I think part of that is educating the public on what we can and can’t do. Those are some of the things that I’m still learning.”

In other business, trustees approved contracts for Director of Communications Sally Rodgers and Director of Child Nutrition Shelly Laaser. Trustees also approved teaching contracts for Amy Dunn, Ryan Dykes, Kari Gage, Kayla McCandless, Lynsey McLaughlin and Danielle Scroggins.

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