Patti Gubbels, a Norfolk resident, has won a seat on the Nebraska State Board of Education for District 3, which covers Northeast Nebraska.
Gubbels won the election with 51,079 votes over her opponent, Mike Goos of Columbus, who received 24,082 votes, according to the most recent results from the secretary of state’s office.
“I am really grateful and really humbled by the tremendous support I have received from others in Northeast and North Central Nebraska,” Gubbels said. “I am so thrilled. Now I’m anxious to get started.”
Gubbels said she stayed up until 11 p.m. waiting for results, but not many counties in District 3 were reporting vote totals at the time. She woke up this morning around 4:30 to check the updated numbers.
“Having spent my career in education, it just feels like it's a continuation of my career. It gives me an opportunity to use my experience and expertise to make a difference for education in Nebraska,” she said about her win. “I think we have such a great education system, but I also know that no matter how good something is, there’s always an opportunity for it to be better.”
Gubbels has been a member of the Norfolk Public Schools board of education for the past six years and is the organization’s vice president.
It was a tough decision to leave NPS. She said calling her son, who lives in California, helped encourage her to make the jump, especially when he said she would be the perfect candidate for the job.
“It makes me sad to leave because I know that, as a board, we have accomplished a great deal over the last six years,” she said. “I think when you work on that kind of board, you develop relationships with people. But I think this is an opportunity for me to make a difference for more people, for education in general in Nebraska.”
Three issues Gubbels wants to address include improving the state’s severe teacher and substitute shortages.
Gubbels said she would work with the board to develop innovative policies to recruit more teachers while also creating more flexible certification rules.
Gubbels also plans to advocate for policies and programs that focus on the development of civility to help students become more open-minded. She wants to encourage policies that focus on schools’ progress and growth instead of relying solely on traditional grading.
As a past member of the Columbus Public Schools board of education, Goos said he was disappointed but still felt satisfied with the local election overall.
“I didn’t put any time or effort into campaigning for the primary, but I did a little more for the general election,” he said. “I didn’t really get in the northern part of the district, which I didn't plan very well, but it went fine. I got my message out, and that was the important thing for me.”
Campaigning was more quiet than Gubbels would have liked this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
There weren’t many opportunities to speak on panels, have debates or meet people face-to face. She mostly relied on social media, virtual meetings and marketing materials like lawn signs.
Now that the election is over, preparation is key for her upcoming term, she said.
Gubbels has kept in contact with Rachel Wise, the previous District 3 representative. She wants to review the state board of education’s strategic plan in depth and will be streaming the next two meetings. She also will go through orientation before her first January 2021 meeting.
“I am really optimistic about the future,” Gubbels said. “As I was thinking about education and serving on the state school board, it made me think that (this year) is going to be a great challenge. We need to really analyze what we have learned about education through the pandemic and use what we learned to reimagine education in Nebraska so it can be better than it already is.”