The past two weekends in Kearney have been good as gold for Humboldt-TR-S School Superintendent Clint Kimbrough and senior student Elliot Gonnella.
Superintendent Kimbrough, who is in the final months of his 15th and final year before retirement, on March 21 was honored as the Nebraska Rural Community School Association’s Outstanding Superintendent of 2014-15 at the NRCSA Spring Conference held at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center in Kearney. One week later, Gonnella stood proud atop the podium on UNK campus as the Class C2 State Champion in Extemporaneous Speaking.
What was once a 3 1/2-hour drive turned into victory laps for the soon-to-be former Titans.
For Kimbrough, it’s a fitting send-off for an administrator who led the school district during an unprecedented period of change and growth. Nominated by HTRS School Board member Neal Kanel, Kimbrough led the way as the Humboldt Cardinals became the Humboldt-Table Rock-Steinauer Titans and welcomed aboard half of the former Dawson-Verdon and Southeast Consolidated School Districts in becoming the largest geographic district in Nebraska. And, as he exits, the school is getting bigger yet – physically, as a $500,000 privately-funded Titan Fitness Center takes shape on the northwest side of the school’s campus in Humboldt.
Letters supporting Kimbrough’s nomination were written by former board members Keith McKim and Ben Steffen, Pawnee City Superintendent Stephen Grizzle and HTRS Principal Lisa Othmer.
Kimbrough, Kanel wrote in his nomination letter, was able to avoid losing any teachers during the period of extensive upheaval and utilized the resources the best he could, while somehow keeping students, staff and patrons happy.
NRCSA was formed in 1979 by a group of eight administrators from Class C and D school districts who saw the need for an organization dedicated to the interests of rural and small schools in Nebraska. NRCSA saw its membership grow to 51 members in 1981 and to about 100 districts when school memberships were authorized in 1983. NRCSA now has membership from 184 school districts and ESU’s with nearly 70,000 students from all parts of the state represented. The Association, which is headed by Executive Director and former Falls City Public Schools Supt. Jon Habben, states it’s intended purpose is to “promote the general advancement of public education, provide a voice or direct influence for those specific concerns of rural schools which are not fulfilled directly by other organizations.”
The boss’ award isn’t the first of its kind to call the Kimbrough mantel home: Wife, Laurie, the former HTRS Principal, was named the NRCSA Outstanding Principal in 2011-12. Nor is it the first award bestowed upon HTRS – Deb Avery was named the Outstanding Elementary Teacher in 2010-11 and Keith McKim was NRCSA Outstanding Board Member in 2004-05. Other notable award winners from the area include Habben, named Outstanding Superintendent for 2009-10, former Falls City School Board Members Ralph Huettner (2008-09) and the late Kathy Bartek (2012-13), Table Rock Board Member Harold Gottula (1993-94), Margaret McInteer (2003-04) of ESU 4, and former FCHS music teacher John Svoboda, the 2007-08 Gary Fisher Outstanding Music Teacher Award Winner.
Nonetheless, its in the world of high school speech where Humboldt has earned the most statewide acclaim and senior Elliot Gonnella is now the latest of the great speakers to hail from Humboldt.
He was one of five HTRS students who competed at State: Carissa Carlin (Informative and Persuasive Speaking) Nick Anthony (Poetry), Kendal Werts (Entertainment) and Trenton Plager (Extemporaneous Speaking).
State Speech concludes a successful speech season in which Coach Carl Linnerson’s team won the Mudecas Championship and Beatrice Invite, and also finished runner-up at the Auburn Invite, Waverly Forensic Classic, Pioneer Conference and C2-1 District.
As a team, HTRS speakers most recently finished runner-up in Class C2 in 2013, exactly 10 years after taking the sweepstakes in ‘03. HTRS was runner-up in C2 in ‘02.
Past HTRS C2 Champs
2014 – Jesse Anderson, Persuasive Speaking
2003 – Melanie Stauffer, Serious Prose; Daniel Harder, Humorous Prose
2002 – Swalpa Udit, Extemporaneous Speaking; Tala Burnison, Persuasive Speaking