MINDEN — A Minden community member is working to recall two Minden Board of Education members following the removal of a board member recently for unexcused absences.
Candice Lantis has filed a petition form in Kearney County to recall Minden Board of Education President Rusty Rhynalds and Vice President Justin Glanzer.
Lantis’ reasoning for filing these forms include “proposing a mask mandate in a non-mandated town in a public forum” and infringing on medical rights. She also expressed issues with Rhynalds’ occupation with Rhynalds Auction & Realty as “a conflict of interest and questionable for biased decisions” and Glanzer’s previous employment as a Kearney County deputy sheriff.
“I do not know these people personally. I do not have a vendetta against them,” Lantis said in a phone interview. “It’s about principle for me. What is right is right to me.”
Seeking a recall
One of Lantis’ reasons for seeking a recall is due to former Minden Board of Education member Katie Sinsel being removed from the board.
At a special meeting April 26, Minden Board of Education members approved a resolution that would remove board member Sinsel. Minden Superintendent Jim Widdifield said that Sinsel was removed from the office due to consecutive unexcused absences at board meetings.
Other media reports have indicated that Sinsel was dismissed because she didn’t wear a mask when required.
At the March 8 regular school board meeting, the Minden Board of Education passed a reaffirmation of the Back to School resolution, which was approved by the board on Aug. 10, and requires all school board members to wear a mask from the time they enter any school building, during school board meetings and until they exit any and all school buildings.
If a board member refuses to abide by this requirement, the board may vote to count that board member as an unexcused absence from the meeting. Sinsel voted against the reaffirmation in March.
According to court records, Sinsel has been charged in Kearney County Court with trespassing/defying order to leave and disturbing the peace. Both charges are misdemeanors.
Those charges are pending.
Lantis raised concerns about how funds at the school are being raised, such as money being spent on sports uniforms and a security system but not on band uniforms. She also mentioned a personal issue she experienced within Minden Public Schools when she wasn’t notified about her daughter skipping a class until the fourth occurrence.
Lantis believes that it was a conflict of interest when Rhynalds’ company was the auctioneering firm for the public auction of remaining personal property and building fixtures at the former Minden High School building in 2018. In the board of education’s April 9, 2018, meeting minutes, a contract was approved with Rhynalds Auction & Realty to conduct the auction, and they did not charge for their services.
Rhynalds abstained from voting on the issue.
Lantis questioned why the school board didn’t choose to award the work to a company that could have benefited from being paid.
After Rhynalds and Glanzer were served with the petition filing forms, they have 20 days to submit a defense statement. After the 20 days, the county has five days to make the petition pages, and Lantis will have 20 days to pick up the petition papers. Both the reason for the petition and the defense statement will appear on the petition pages for citizens to read before choosing whether or not to sign.
Lantis then will have 30 days to gather signatures. For these particular petitions, she needs 570 signatures for each petition. The number of signatures is based off 35% of the highest vote getter in the last general election for the board of education.
Lantis then will have to return the petitions, and the county has 15 days to verify the signatures.
Lantis has created a private group on Facebook called “MPS School Board Recall,” and it currently has 392 members. She plans to go door to door to gather signatures.
Former state Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell has offered to lend Lantis his expertise in the petition process.
“My involvement is helping engage in the civic process, whether that is having their voices heard at the ballot box or being able to effectively navigate the petition process,” Kuehn said.
Even if the board members aren’t recalled, Lantis hopes this will encourage others to speak up or run for office.
“I’m happy with the fact that people are tired of it and standing up,” she said. “We are standing up. We see what you are doing and we don’t like it.”
Response to allegations
In response to the allegations made by Lantis, Rhynalds issued the following statement to the Kearney Hub:
“I have never had the opportunity to visit with or meet Mrs. Lantis. From her reason to recall petition form — I am unsure exactly what she is accusing me of.
As of late, I have heard rumors that the Board isn’t willing to support the band with the purchase of new uniforms; that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In my eight years of being on the school board, band uniforms has NEVER been on the agenda for the board to consider. I have never seen a plan (quantity or costs) for band uniforms. What I do know is MPS will have a new band director this coming school year which we all are excited about. I look forward to his leadership, and hearing all about his plan and needs. I support ALL programs at MPS!
On another note, I am thankful for the success Minden Public Schools had with students this year and I am thankful we were able to be in school the entire school year. I believe in rules and the need to follow them. If this is about the potential Nebraska Department of Education new Health Standards, I do NOT SUPPORT this potential curriculum or any part of it.
As I have the entire eight years I’ve served on the BOE, I welcome the opportunity to speak with any person in our school district regarding any school business.”
Justin Glanzer had no comment at this time.
Widdifield said some of the issues that are being raised aren’t necessarily items the board would handle.
“When a school year goes on and whatever happens throughout the school year goes on with the student or parent or anything along those lines, it goes through a chain of command. ... They would go talk to the teacher, talk to the principal, talk to me and if nothing got resolved, it would go to the board,” he explained. “As this goes for the board members, their responsibility is to develop and enforce school policy, adopt school’s budget to make sure everything is what they need, evaluate the performance of the school. ... From my three years here in Minden, that is what we have used.”
Widdifield said the discussion on new uniforms for the band began in March.
The band boosters and parents are raising funds to help the school with the costs, which is what any boosters – sports or otherwise – would do for large expense items, he said.
The school hasn’t determined yet how much the uniforms will cost, and it isn’t a topic that has been put before the board of education yet, said Widdifield.
Widdifield noted that the security system at the school was part of the bond that was passed for the school to be built.
Lindsay Buechler said another Facebook group, “Whippet Strong! Minden Proud!” was created earlier this week by a few parents of Minden students who wanted to show support for the community and the school.
“We have an incredible school full of amazing students, teachers and administrators, supported by a school board that cares about furthering our children’s education. We want all those associated with the school to know they have a great deal of support in this community. We take pride in our school and want those who work and support it to know it,” Buechler said.
The group has 550 members, and their goal was to raise enough funds to place a full page advertisement in the June 2 edition of the Minden Courier in support of Minden Public Schools. The group already has reached its goal and plans to place another ad later in the month. Buechler noted that there have been good discussions within the Facebook group that may help educate the community on different aspects of operating a school.
“Being our school board is the target of great discussion, it makes sense to educate ourselves and those around us on their role so an intelligent discourse can occur. We would welcome anyone and everyone to join our group to learn factual information about our amazing school district and to also witness how much MPS is loved and supported,” she said.