By John McLoone
The Hastings School Board was able to spend some time at its last two meetings of 2021 to bid farewell to three members who have dedicated considerable time to helping to make the Hastings schools better.
There were countless meetings and lots of difficult decisions as they provided leadership of the district. Outgoing members are Chair Kelsey Wait, Vice Chair Dave Pemble and Director Scott Gergen.
Incoming board members will conduct their first meeting Wednesday night, Jan. 5. Elected to the board in November were Mike Reis, Carrie Banaszewski Tate and Jessica Dressely.
At the start of the Dec. 8 and Dec. 15 board meetings, Superintendent Dr. Robert McDowell took some time to honor the service to the school district of the outgoing board members, who were presented with a Hastings High School stadium blanket. Gergen was unable to attend the Dec. 8 meeting, so he was honored at the onset of the Dec. 15 special session.
“This being our last regular board meeting, I would like to take a moment and recognize Dave and Kelsey for your service to the school board and the amount of time, energy, work, thought, questioning and devotion you’ve given not only to the school district, but the students of the school district and the families of the school district,” said McDowell. “I offer a well wish into your next endeavors and thank you for the time you’ve put into the school board.”
Board members all credited Pemble for reaching out to them when they first won board seats and helping indoctrinate them. “Dave, you were the first person to reach out to me when I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and a brandnew board mem- ber,” said Stephanie Malm. “You led me through all the procedural intricacies that come with the board. It’s a very complex system. I’m very appreciative of that. You’ve been a very valued voice on this team. I’m very thankful for having met you and your mentorship.”
Brian Davis said Pemble invited him to his home for coffee and a board talk.
“You handed me the largest stack of paper I have ever seen,” Davis said. “Thank you for all the time you’ve committed to this district.”
Becky Beissel told Pemble, “You took me under your wing. You explained a lot. I was very naïve to what a board member was. I appreciate you reaching out.”
Lisa Hedin said Pemble was a board member of “high in- tegrity.”
“The depth of your knowledge about this community and this school district and understanding what the true values of our district are and your willingness to service, it’s fabulous. You’ve represented this community so well,” she said.
Waits was credited by board members for her leadership and dedication to continually making the Hastings School District better.
Said Malm, “Kelsey, I’m happy to call you a friend. You have worked tirelessly over the last two years and taught me what it means to be dedicated to this district. You’ve done it with grace and with poise. There have been some tough deci- sions and difficult moments. You always come to this table level- headed and with a smile.”
“You got me into this,” Davis told Waits. “I couldn’t be more grateful that you did. I will always be grateful for you being such a rock and a tremendous leader. I’ll always be indebted to you for encouraging me to be a part of what we’re doing here.”
Beissel recounted a similar story.
“Kelsey, you were mentoring me before I was a board mem- ber. You’re one of the reasons why I ran to be a board member. I really appreciate you. I never would have gotten through these two years without you. You’ll be greatly missed,” she said.
“Kelsey, I’ve just really valued your insights into the board,” said Hedin. “We have not always seen eye to eye. There have been a lot of longer conversations. That has been so valuable in what I’ve learned personally and how we’ve been able to serve the district together. I really appreciate your ability to stay pres- ent in difficult conversations and your ability to keep your eye on the prize of the students and all the families of our district. That’s such a valuable perspective.”
With a large crowd in attendance at the meeting, the pair re- ceived a well-deserved ovation from those present.
“It has been my honor to serve this district,” said Waits. “It has been an incredible opportunity. It has spurred me going back to grad school to study politics.
“Thank you for four years of being able to work together as a wonderful team. It has been fantastic.”
Pemble has served the community on a number of boards and commissions, and he said it was time to step away.
“I have a hard time saying that it’s time to go, but I’ve had a few years in. I’ve got three grandchildren and time commit- ments are getting difficult. It was really hard for me to say I wasn’t going to run,” he said. “I’ve had my fingers in this com- munity, this school district, this part of the county for 40 years, maybe longer. It’s tough to say you’ve served your time, but I’m saying I’ve served my time. Thank you for the support you folks have given me over the years. We can work through our difficulties and make the community, this school district and this area outstanding.”
At the Dec. 15 meeting, McDowell hailed the dedication of Gergen.
“I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge you Scott and acknowledge the work you have done and officially thank you for all the time and energy you‘ve put in,” he said.
“Thank you. It truly has been my pleasure,” said Gergen. “I’ve learned a ton. I’ve worked with some awesome people, those in the room including those that are no longer on the board, I learned a lot. Hopefully we’re leaving the district in a better spot that it was eight years ago. The work was valuable. I liked giving back.”
“I would just like to thank you for your last four years that we’ve been able to work together,” said Waits. “It’s been great to work as a team with you.”
“You’re such an asset to the team,” Malm told Gergen. “I re- ally appreciate your mentorship and your technical and financial expertise.”
Hedin said Gergen’s work on the board will have a lasting impact. “The eight years we’ve been able to serve, it is immeas- urable what the district has benefited from your service,” she said, “To see you take your family’s history and turn it into service here and wee that represented every day and the way you just are so thoughtful and engaged in really challenging times. Your personal integrity is just without question in my mind.”
Said Pemble, “You and I and Kelsey will enjoy some free time.”