by Dennis Dalman
Even though the Sartell-St. Stephen School Board acted within its bounds in nominating someone to replace a board member, some school district residents are not happy about it.
Michelle Meyer, a former school board member, attended the April 3 working session when school board chair Mary McCabe suggested a Sartell resident, Dr. Gary Schnellert, be appointed to fill the vacancy left by the recent resignation of Julie Zupfer Anderson. There were no other nominations made and no objections to McCabe’s nomination (see related story).
Meyer said she feels strongly the board should have opened that vacancy to the entire community and should have called for applications from anyone who would like to apply. She said the Sartell City Council follows that open-application policy, and the school board should do likewise.
Meyer was elected to the school board twice, for two four-year terms, the first in 2000, the second in 2004. She served as chair for two of those years. Meyer said she would have considered applying for the current vacancy herself if the board had called for community-wide applications.
Meyer said she has absolutely nothing against the nominee, Schnellert, who has a sterling resume, she added. Still, Meyer said she thinks the board should also have welcomed applications from people in the district who have children in its schools and who have a long working knowledge of the Sartell-St. Stephen School District.
Meyer said the process of selecting a replacement strikes many Sartell residents as a lack of transparency, especially on the heels of the board’s recent decision to eliminate the week-long spring break. Meyer also said many parents and students have begun to believe there is a communications breakdown between the school board in its relations with parents, students and teachers.
“What makes this school district outstanding is its teachers,” Meyer said. “That’s why we moved here, and that’s why many move here. The right thing to do is to open up communications on the school board. We need transparency. Parents and students need a voice.”
Meyer worked to help educate residents about last year’s school bond levy-referendum issues, which were subsequently approved by voters. She is also very active in all forms of school volunteer activities.
Because the Sartell-St. Stephen School District is widely known as one of the tops in the state, many people in the Sartell area tend to take that for granted, Meyer said, adding a certain apathy can set in.
That is why, she said, it’s important the school board and administration maintain transparency and good communications – something Meyer said she believes is not happening in recent months.
There is a group of parents, Meyer said, who plan to form a grassroots group to promote open and honest communications within the school district.
“A lot of people are wondering, ‘What is going on at those (school board) meetings?” Meyer said.
She also said she and others do not want to be negative but that they are concerned about the board making decisions without giving any apparent good reasons, citing the spring-break issue.
Meyer said she and others want to be assured the superintendent and the board are moving forward in a good direction to maintain an excellent school district.