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School Board seeks applicants for open seat

Deadline to apply is May 30; selection process to be determined

By Scott Wente

South Washington County residents who want a big say in the school district’s direction have an opportunity.

The District 833 School Board has started laying out the process to fill departing board member Jim Gelbmann’s seat. The board will appoint someone to complete Gelbmann’s term beginning in July.

The application period begins next week, and the board will meet June 5 to decide a selection and interview process. The board’s goal is to announce a replacement June 19 and have that new member sworn in July 17.

Board members have mixed opinions on how the selection process should be conducted.

Board Chair Ron Kath proposed a three-member personnel committee review applications and recommend a few applicants to be interviewed publicly by the full board. During a board discussion Thursday, May 8, Kath said he wants a welcoming process and doesn’t want the board to debate applications in a public setting or to be negative “about somebody who wants to be participating with the community.”

Others raised concerns about that approach, citing a desire for the full board to vet all of the applications.

“We all bring a unique perspective into the realm of selecting candidates, and I think if we’re all going to work with this person then I think we should say so,” board member Sharon Van Leer said of a broader vetting process.

The process could depend on the number of people who apply, Kath said. A personnel committee may be used if there are many applicants.

Board members also must still decide what questions to ask of the candidates who are interviewed and whether to provide some of the questions ahead of time. There was no consensus on that approach during last week’s discussion.

Some said providing questions ahead of time will allow candidates to develop a higher level of analysis on complicated issues such as school funding. Others pointed to traditional school board elections in which candidates participate in televised forums without having questions provided ahead of time.

Kath said he preferred the board openly discuss the interview questions and provide them ahead of time.

“We’ll see who’s more prepared and not prepared,” he said, “but I want this to be very inviting.”

Providing questions publicly ahead of time also will help dodge any potential open meeting law violations that could come if board members start emailing one another with suggested interview questions, Kath said.

Applicants for the board seat can submit a letter of interest, a resume, letters of recommendation and a list of their school, district and community volunteer activities between Monday, May 19, and 4 p.m. Friday, May 30. Applications should be dropped off at or sent to: Superintendent’s Office, 7362 East Point Douglas Road, Cottage Grove, MN 55016.

Applicants must be at least 21 years old, have lived in the district for at least 30 days and be eligible voters.

Gelbmann is stepping down mid-term, citing personal and professional conflicts that have affected his attendance at board meetings. His board term ends in December 2015.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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