by Dennis Dalman
Applications might soon be accepted from people willing to fill the seat vacated earlier last month by Sartell-St. Stephen School Board member Julie Zupfer Anderson.
The application decision, however, is not yet written in stone. The school board will decide how to open up the vacancy-filling process at a special work session following the regular school board meeting May 14, which will start at 6:30 p.m. in the District Office building.
At its Monday, April 23 meeting, the board agreed it would be a good idea to open up the process for applications or at least to consider more people who could be nominated for the vacant seat. The board did not pass any resolutions to that effect, but a consensus of those present at the board meeting seems to have been achieved. Board members Patrick Jacobson-Schulte and Dan Riordan were not present at the Monday meeting. Board chair Lesa Kramer and board member Greg Asfeld agreed it would be best to accept applications from anyone interested in the position.
Earlier at the meeting, a motion was made to appoint Gary Schnellert as an interim board member, but the motion did not pass. Discussion about opening the process then followed.
At an April 3 meeting, the board had decided Schnellert was likely to be appointed at the April 23 meeting. That decision caused some controversy among Sartell residents who think the process should be opened to all. Schnellert’s name was brought up at the April 3 meeting by board member Mary McCabe, and the board agreed he would be a good choice. No other potential appointees were discussed at the meeting. McCabe and Superintendent Joe Hill have both known Schnellert professionally and admire his work. A Sartell resident, Schnellert is a professor of educational leadership and a coordinator of distance programs at the University of North Dakota.
Community members who questioned the board’s vacancy-filling process said they had no trouble at all with Schnellert as a qualified candidate but that the process should be an open one so more candidates could be considered.
At last Monday’s meeting, board chair Kramer said she thinks the board did proceed too quickly in trying to fill the vacancy.
Once the board chooses an interim member, he or she will fill that position for only up until Dec. 31, 2012 at the latest. A Nov. 6, 2012 election would determine who fills the seat. election. That is because current school board member Julie Zupfer Anderson, who resigned from the board recently, had more than two years left of her four-year term. If the school board appoints someone later this month to fill that vacancy, that person would serve only six months or so until a new person is elected this Nov. 6. The newly elected person would then serve until Dec. 31, 2014. The one appointed to the position could also choose to file for election.
Michelle Meyer, a former school board member, is happy the board is amenable to opening the appointment process. She is one of the Sartell residents who strongly disagreed with the board’s April 3 decision to limit the proposed appointment to Schnellert only. Meyer said she would be willing to fill the board vacancy.
The vocal disagreements with the school board’s vacancy-filling process followed closely on the heels of another controversial board decision: to eliminate the traditional week-long spring break in favor of a sprinkling of days off here and there in the spring months.
Those two decisions caused some parents and students to get together and show their displeasure with the board’s decision-making processes, which they say were too often not taking into account a wide range of opinions from people in the district.
Some of them started a Facebook page called Trans[parents]cy. Its mission is to “support clear, positive communication within our school district.” There were several positive messages on the Facebook page after the board members’ expressed willingness to open up the vacancy-filling process – comments that showed satisfaction with the board members’ open-mindedness.