Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series on new officials in Box Butte County following the 2018 General Election as they begin their terms this year.
Alliance Public Schools Board of Education nearly wiped the slate clean in 2018.
Longtime board member Alan Cornish did not seek re-election and retired with a combined 30 years. Peer Terry Curtiss, midway through his current term, resigned to pursue another elected office. Voters elected him county attorney. The school board appointed Tim Richey to fill the seat. Vaughn Toof did not run again. Retired teacher Karen Trussell and City department head Shana Brown were not up for re-election. Tim Kollars garnered the most votes running for another term and retained his office as president. At the ballot box, the other two seats went to Edison Red Nest III and Amanda K. Mockerman.
Each of the new Dist. 6 school board members are introduced below, with answers to a series of interview questions:
Richey has been with Box Butte General Hospital for nearly three years as a CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist). He grew up in Monroeville, Penn., just outside of Pittsburg. After high school Richey earned his undergraduate degree in Nursing at the University of Pittsburg and a Masters in Nurse Anesthesia from Texas Wesleyan University. Richey spends much of his free time with his wife and family, often at the activities involving their five children.
Red Nest spent his youth in Alliance, Denver and Scottsbluff, retuning here in 1998. He operates Native Futures. “What we do is help people,” he explained,” doesn’t matter age or race.” From his downtown location, Red Nest hosts an afterschool program for children that has become known for its youth lacrosse team. He contracts with the Department of Health and Human Services and other entities, providing a range of services including a diversion program for first offenders. The AHS grad enjoys time at home with his children and wife Courtney.
Mockerman grew up in Alliance. “I attended St. Agnes Academy then moved to Alliance High School. After high school I lived in Lincoln, Neb. and Portland, Ore. working in the insurance industry. I returned to Alliance in 2017 and have really enjoyed returning home and the smaller community.”
• Interest in serving on the school board?
Richey — “I always felt that it was important to get involved with the community. My kids are in the school district. … I tried to encourage my wife to do it. She said it wasn’t the time so I decided to do it.” He did not know how many others had applied at the time. “I decided to step in and serve. It was something that was needed.”
Red Nest — “… (I) felt it was time, socially at a time in Alliance where a person like myself could run, Native American and ex-felon, could run.” He has been involved with youth in the community the past five years and learned more about the public schools through the eyes of those in Diversion.
Mockerman — “I decided to run for the school board because I wanted the opportunity to be involved in my community in a way I haven’t been before. I believe in quality public education and I have a child that attends Grandview Elementary, so I have an especially personal interest in preserving and supporting our schools here in Alliance. I want to be a conduit for concerns and interests of teachers and parents while emphasizing the importance of participating in the goings on of the schools’ activities.”
• Experience/background to draw from?
Richey — “(Experience) My own education, I guess going up through the public school system. A lot of my experience is going to be on-the-job training, I’ve never been on a board for anything. My wife does homeschooling with our kids, we’ve learned a lot through that together — educational needs, things that benefit our kids and other kids.”
Red Nest — “What’s brought me to this point is experience and background,” he said, commenting that he needed an extra semester to graduate from high school, went to prison and now operates a for-profit business. “All that negative from a long time ago has turned into a positive.”
Mockerman — No comment.
• Issues to address working with the board?
Richey — “I don’t have an have an agenda … (I) want to be there to do a good job, to help the board make decisions the best decisions that better the school district, better the kids and help the community as well.”
Red Nest — “Mental health issues come up with our kids,” he said, adding many have reported receiving little information on drug and alcohol use. While Red Nest noted he does not know the AHS curriculum, he wants to increase awareness. Another priority is increasing teacher pay working with funding limitations.
Mockerman — I look forward to being a part of conversations surrounding recruiting and retaining caring and motivated teachers and employees to educate students. Ensuring we have the best educators lays the foundation for students having opportunities to work and learn in consistent, safe, and nurturing environments.
• Goals for the first year?
Richey — “First I’m trying to get to know my board members” the superintendent and administration, he said. Richey is also working to know role on the board, “really trying to be a good voice among the others that are on the board.” Starting in December he was able to take part in a couple meetings before reorganization this month set committee assignments.
Red Nest — Referencing his key concerns, Red Nest said he “at least wants to begin” to address mental health, drug awareness and salaries. He would also like to improve students’ relationship with the police department and School Resource Office, and utilize the officers base at the high school to provide information.
Mockerman — Policy policy policy! I want to read about and learn all the rules that support our schools so I can have meaningful dialogue whenever a topic comes up.
• Approach to residents' concerns?
Richey — “I think the biggest thing … is there is always a chain of command,” he said, “and if anyone has a concern that’s my job to make sure they follow that chain of command. I have to be impartial to a lot of things that are said or complaints because when it comes to making a decision you can’t be partial to something and make a decision.”
Red Nest — “(I’m) more than open to parents and students coming to me,” he said. Red Nest conveyed the importance of addressing concerns, and, if warranted, bring it to the entire board.
Mockerman — “I think it is very important to fully understand a worry or concern that is brought to the board’s attention and a discussion be had until both parties are on the same page.”
• Views on the budget, ideas for the upcoming fiscal year?
Richey — (No comment)
Red Nest — Not specifying any particular aspects, he said overall that the budget should be fair. “… as long as the kids are being taken care of and everybody’s happy with it …”
Mockerman — “I look forward to supporting reasonable budgetary actions that support Alliance schools.”
• Approach to maintaining aging infrastructure and facilities; potential expansion?
Richey — “The superintendent gives us good advice,” he said, concerning what needs addressed that is urgent. Richey added decisions have to be made economically.
Red Nest — “I think that if things are broken and the school knows it and we know it, (the problem) should be fixed,” there’s always a way, he said.
Mockerman — Infrastructure is an important topic as well as a potentially costly one, she said. “Ongoing conversation regarding the schools facilities and how they support the learning and wellbeing of students, teachers, and staff will ensure that any maintenance and/or improvements needed can be implemented when the time comes.”
• View on working with other political subdivisions, such as city of Alliance; ideas to improve cooperation?
Richey — “Always need to have open line of communication … we’re all in the same community,” he said, noting he would follow Board President Tim Kollars’ advice and that of senior members.
Red Nest — “Something like that falls on (APS) but we should be talking to any other board out there (including civic and other organizations). Being part of the school board is just one part of what makes us a city and a county.
Mockerman — “Anytime you can collaborate with another group within the community, town/city, state, or globe you should do it because it contributes to the greater good of everyone involved. I view working with other political subdivisions as being quite important and I look forward to it.”