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Goessel gym to be named after Unrau

24-year tenure of former board member recognized

Staff writer

Every year, the Goessel Board of Education elects officers from among the group. For 22 years in a row, the board elected Lynel Unrau as president until his resignation in 2009.

“The attitude was, ‘Things are going well so why make a change’?” current board president Mary Rosfeld said.

Things did go well in the eyes of the administration of USD 411 as Unrau believed that “Goessel was the best district around.”

“I agree with him,” said former Superintendent Chet Roberts, who worked with Unrau for 18 years in various capacities.

On Monday, when Goessel High School basketball teams play Flint Hills High School, the school district will rename the Junior High Gymnasium the Lynel J. Unrau Gymnasium. The ceremony will be during halftime of the boys varsity game.

Since there is a regularly scheduled junior high game on the same night, the high school game will be played in the Junior High Gym and all the junior high games will be in the high school gym.

Lynel Unrau has a storied history in the Goessel district. He grew up on a farm southeast of Goessel and began his education in 1959 as a first grader in the then new Goessel Elementary School building. He was a junior in high school in 1969 when the school district began construction on a large addition, which included a new gym, library, cafeteria, music room, and several classrooms.

“As students, we were fascinated to watch the construction outside the windows of the science room,” Unrau said. “Big scrapers dug a huge hole in the ground and we knew we were getting a new gym.”

In his senior year at Goessel, Unrau and his teammates were able to play in the new gymnasium, the one that 40 years later would bear his name.

During his senior year, his high school coach was Chet Roberts; 14 years later, Roberts was still the basketball coach and Unrau was on the board of education.

Unrau, a farmer, actually began his pursuit of the Goessel Board of Education in 1981, but lost the election to Stanley Wiens, the incumbent candidate.

“Stanley Wiens was a very good board member and I was the upstart,” Unrau said.

In 1985, he registered for the position again and this time was elected to the board. Board of education terms are four years and after his first two years on the board, he was elected as the Goessel Board of Education President.

“Lynel Unrau was a good president,” current Superintendent John Fast said. “He never got ruffled, he stayed under control, he was focused, and he made sure everyone was heard.

“In the four years that I was superintendent with Lynel as president, I cannot recall a vote on any significant issue that was not 7-0.”

Others echoed the feeling that Unrau allowed all voices to be heard. Constituents were welcomed to attend board meetings. When it was their turn to speak, the board listened to members of the public and thanked them for coming.

“Lynel was very respectful to everyone — board members, administration, and even constituents who might be at the meetings to complain,” said Patsy Schmidt, board clerk for 20 years.

“The quality of making sure everyone was heard is something that I learned from my dad, Glen Unrau,” Unrau said. “I saw him use the same quality when he was in leadership positions. I always allowed board members to speak first and if consensus seemed to be happening through discussion, it was not necessary for me to give my opinion.”

Not only did Unrau attend monthly board meetings, he met with the superintendent before each monthly meeting to review the agenda. Unrau regularly attended regional meetings sponsored by the Kansas Association of School Boards.

“He knew a lot of people from other school districts,” Schmidt said. “He cared enough about the Goessel district that he would gather ideas from other districts that might be used to enhance our district.”

“In order to stay current on policies that might affect school districts, Unrau would also attend the three-day KASB legislative events,” Fast said.

When it became clear that Unrau would not seek another term in 2009, Fast checked with KASB to see how unusual it was for someone to be a school board member for 24 years.

“KASB stated that they did not keep those records, but indicated to me that Unrau serving six terms put him in elite company. When I asked them about one person serving as board president for 22 years in a row, they indicated that those kind of stories were rarely heard,” Fast said.

“For this kind of outstanding service, we wanted to do something outstanding,” Rosfeld said.

Fast and Rosfeld tossed some ideas around about what they might do. They narrowed the choices to three items and the board of education unanimously supported the idea of naming the Junior High Gym for Unrau.

“He had a passion for improving facilities rather than letting them go to waste. The 1970s gym was one that he played in as a student, and he was involved in getting it renovated during the 1998 building project,” Fast said.

At Unrau’s retirement party in May 2009, the announcement came as a complete surprise to him.

“I did not know what was under that easel. That was the last thing that I ever expected. I am very honored by their decision,” Unrau said.

Last modified Jan. 28, 2010

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