The Park Rapids School Board paused Dec. 21 to recognize school board member Gary Gauldin, whose term ends Dec. 31.

Gauldin came to Park Rapids in 1971 as an industrial arts teacher. He also coached wrestling, middle school football and track, and later served as the high school principal.

Elected to the school board after retirement, Gauldin has served 16 years on the board, most recently as vice-chair. He did not seek re-election in November. However, he has one year left of his term in the Minnesota School Boards Association delegate assembly.

Acknowledging that the Dec. 21 meeting would be his last as a member of the board, school board chair Sherry Safratowich asked Gauldin for parting words of wisdom.

“Just continue the attitude I’ve seen in the last 12-16 years working together,” Gauldin said. “I use the phrase trust and respect. If you trust each other and respect each other, you’ve come a helluva long ways. I think that was missing in previous Park Rapids School Board relationships.

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“You don’t need to agree on everything. For God’s sake, don’t agree on everything. But at least respect each other as individuals … and trust each other.”

Gauldin recalled bygone years when school staff would draw breath at the end of June and say, “This job’s not too bad without kids here.” Regarding this year’s learning model changes due to COVID-19, he added, “We’d eat those words right now. There’s nothing about this that’s good, folks. It sucks.”

But later, he offered encouragement in the face of this year’s dip in enrollment and state aid, saying, “I’m confident it will turn around.”

Superintendent Lance Bagstad, school board member Dennis Dodge and former superintendent Glenn Chiodo shared warm sentiments and humorous memories about Gauldin, and board member Stephanie Carlson read a poem she had written in his honor.

Bagstad recalled first meeting Gauldin at a conference 17 years ago and said, “All we did was talk about kids and doing good things. He has maintained passion about students, about CTE and about doing what’s best for children and families ever since I’ve known him.”

Describing Gauldin as one of his mentors, Bagstad called him “true and honest and passionate about what we do in education,” and full of good advice.

Chiodo praised Gauldin for how he “stepped up, time and time again” as principal and with the school board.

Gauldin admitted that no longer being on the school board “will be a change for me. It will be interesting to see what happens. I’ll try to keep my eye on what you’re doing. … Thanks for the relationship.”