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May 09th, 2021

abbott with officialCliff Abbott discusses a call with an official during a game in 2013. Abbott has been the head coach of the Liberal Redskin football program as well as a former school board member. He will step back into his role on the board after being appointed to fill a vacancy left by Sarah Mersdorf-Foreman, who moved to Hugoton. L&T file photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


A familiar face will soon be rejoining the USD 480 school board. 

Cliff Abbott, who has served on the board in the past in different capacities, was chosen Monday evening during a special meeting of the USD 480 school board to fill the vacancy left by Sarah Mersdorf-Foreman, who resigned from the board earlier this month. Other candidates who had applied for the position were Christopher McNeil, Dr. William J. Bernhardt-Purdy, Amy Whitaker, and Julie Foster. 

“It was very humbling, it's great to have the opportunity to serve our youth and serve families in the community in a board position,” Abbott said. “I don't take that lightly, and I appreciate the opportunity to be back on the board.”

Abbott added being a “product of the USD 480 system” himself, he felt he should be of any help he could for the community. 

“I'm very much a product of Liberal and USD 480, and I believe in our community and education system. The board needed someone to fill that gap until it can be filled with this next election cycle,” Abbott said. “I've had many terms on the board, from being employed by it and then I've also served as the board's vice president and president. I've worn a lot of hats during my time with USD 480, so I've already got a feel for what it will take to hit the ground running this time around. I felt I could help bridge that gap in the board, and I have to say, all the other candidates were absolutely fantastic and I hope they decide officially run for that spot. Overall, I thought I could help and I believe you should always help your community, so I put my name in. It's great being part of a group of other community members who are interested in helping the community and do what's best for our local students, and this is a great way to help.”

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During his past terms on the board, Abbott said he has seen many changes happen. 

“During my time with the board, I was there when all the bond project stuff was getting going, and it was amazing seeing that transformation happen with the new buildings and everything else that was part of that,” Abbott said. “I've been on a lot of committees with the board like the construction committee, the curriculum committee, and several others, so I've worn a lot of hats just with the board. Then with the USD 480 district itself, I'm a USD 480 alumnus and all of my children have also gone through the USD 480 educational system and were part of a lot of extracurricular activities and other groups like the National Honor Society and things like that. And now, in the Liberal community, I'm a businessman and property owner, so being among all of that, I get to hear a lot of different perspectives on different things and make the board more accessible for people.”

One of his first priorities, Abbott said, will be to catch up on what is going on throughout the district and the schools. 

“The main thing for me right away is getting myself up to speed on what all has been done for this school year so far and then getting myself up to speed on what's already being talked about for the 2021-2022 school year, like what are some curriculum challenges going on and what are some of the other things being talked about,” Abbott said. “Something in particular that's ongoing and always changing is technology, and while I'm not exactly tech-savvy, I know that's something that needs to be frequently updated so our students can compete and have all the resources they need for their education. So the main thing right now for me will be getting myself up to speed and learning all I can about what's going on now and what will be going on in the near future.”

Abbott added he is excited to be working with the USD 480 school board again. 

“I'm excited for the challenge of getting the schools fully back up and going after COVID-19 and everything else, so I think we need to think about what we need to do to get our students fully back to where they need to be,” Abbott said. “We need to also think about what we need to do in order to give them the education they deserve so when they graduate, they're successful, whether their plan is going to college or going straight into the workforce. And whether they choose to stay local or maybe relocate to a bigger city or even somewhere overseas, they need to be able to compete for those opportunities. Either way, we need to continue doing our best to give our local students those opportunities.”

Abbott said he is also excited to be working with the rest of the school board. 

“The people, everyone on the board is doing a great job, and they're all great to work with. I always get excited when I hear stories of our students becoming successful, which helps make our community successful,” Abbott said. “I want our students to be successful because that ultimately helps everyone. When our students go on and do great things, whether it's with academics or art or music or athletics or something like that, that's always great. Being able to serve with the other members of the board is great, and we all want to give all USD 480 students the chance to be successful in school and then in their future careers. I'd like to encourage as many people as possible to get involved in the community, be it with one of the governing entity boards or some other civic group, or maybe a group with your church. The more you do to enhance your community, the better things are and the more successful everyone can be.”

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