R-P school board to welcome three new members

By : 
CHAD SMITH
TRI-COUNTY RECORD

The Rushford-Peterson School Board will have three new faces at its January meeting. The newest members include Kathy Wade of Rushford, and Jeff Michel and Chris Grindland, both of Peterson. The new board members come from different backgrounds but step into their positions with the goal of serving the community.

Chris Grindland

Grindland, the current Peterson City Clerk, is readying for his first term on the R-P School Board. Grindland spent two decades in the U.S. Air Force, and after retiring returned home to Peterson, wanting to serve at the local level too.

“Since I retired, I was looking for ways to still serve,” Grindland said. “I wanted to find a position that would have an impact on the community. I did run for the spot on the Peterson City Council, but shortly after I got elected, I resigned the seat to take the City Clerk job.

“As sappy as it might sound, a big reason I wanted to run for a spot on the school board is that the children are our future. (I) Just wanted to do my part in helping them get a quality education.”

Grindland expects a learning curve as he begins to understand his responsibilities as a board member. However, he said there is one big task facing the board in the year ahead.

“I don’t know a great deal about how it works yet, but I do know a big project will be finding a replacement for (retiring) Superintendent (Chuck) Ehler,” he said. “It’s going to be a big job because he’s done so well for the district. Those will be some tough shoes to fill.”

Grindland’s family includes his father, Bill, a long-time employee of the Rushford Farmers Elevator, and two children in the R-P district;  Beau (7th grade) and Emma (3rd-grade).

Kathy Wade

Although she’s heading into her first term as a board member, Wade was asked to run once before. Those same folks asked if Wade would be willing to be a write-in candidate on this year’s ballot, and this time she agreed. “I thought it sounded like a good opportunity,” Wade said. “It’s a lot easier to be a write-in candidate with email, Facebook, and other means of communication.”

Wade’s first meeting as a school board member is scheduled for Jan. 7th. She knows there will be a big learning curve as she joins the board for the first time.  “Absolutely one of the biggest jobs is selecting a new superintendent to fill the vacancy left by Chuck Ehler, who’s retiring at the end of the school year,” Wade said. “That’s our biggest challenge right out of the gate.”

Wade’s husband, Gary, is a teacher/coach with Rushford-Peterson, but she also has education in her professional background. She taught at Winona High School for 31 years. Even with over three decades of education experience under her belt, Wade says it’s a whole new ballgame going from teaching to the school board.

“It’s going to be very different,” she said. “I’m very anxious to learn what my responsibilities are and I’m sure they’re going to be very different from teaching. I have to listen, learn, and try to be the best board member I can be for the community, the school, and the kids.”

Wade is originally from Lanesboro. She and Gary have two grown children, son Taylor, and daughter Emily.

Jeff Michel

To say that Jeff Michel didn’t expect to be a new school board member might be a bit of a surprise. However, he really wasn’t an official write-in candidate until the morning of election day. In his words: “I was kind of put on the spot.”

“The wife (Shari) and I had actually talked about it before,” Michel recalled. “I put my name in the hat to fill out a term when the board had an unexpected opening come up. That’s how word initially got out then that I was interested in the school board.

“I actually got a text from my wife the morning of the election asking if I’d be interested in being a write-in candidate,” Michel added. “I initially said ‘I don’t know.’ However, she needed to know right that instant. So, I said I’d give it a shot and see what happens.”

Michel agreed with the other new board members that the biggest task ahead is replacing the retiring Ehler. Michel said the new superintendent will have some big shoes to fill once they complete the hiring process.

Michel said the new board members have a couple of required classes coming up. The first one is on Nov. 29 in Rochester, with another one to follow in the Twin Cities during January. He’s not 100 percent sure of what the classes will cover but it’s likely “everything I need to know about being a school board member.”

Michel was born in Wyoming. His mother’s side of the family was from southeast Minnesota, and he said the Moran family were some of the first people to move into the area. Michel spent a lot of his childhood going back-and-forth between his father in Wyoming and mother in Minnesota.

“Up until seventh-grade, I went to school here,” Michel said. “From eighth grade on, I went to school in Wyoming. I didn’t return right away, but eventually moved back to southeast Minnesota in 1988.”

Michel is excited about the opportunity to be on the school board but describes himself as more “nervous.” He said being in the spotlight doesn’t come easily to him. “I try to look at things from a common-sense approach,” Michel said. “I have to warn folks, I’m not always politically correct and am often very honest.”

Michel and Shari have a son, Isaac, who attends second grade in the R-P Elementary School.