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School Board must fill vacancy for 1 meeting

The Brainerd School Board must appoint a person to fill the vacancy left by Jana Shogren, who will be done on the board Sept. 2, as she is moving outside the district. The appointee will only serve for one meeting.

School Board members sit around a table
Brainerd School Board members discuss matters during their meeting Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, at the Washington Educational Services Building.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — The Brainerd School Board must appoint a candidate to fill a vacancy on the board — for just one meeting.

Jana Shogren announced last month she would resign from the School Board in the coming months after purchasing a house just outside the district. Her last day on the board was not certain at the time, as it depended upon the date she sold her house in the district.

At the board’s meeting Monday, Aug. 8, members learned Shogren’s last day would be Sept. 2. While the district will have a special election on the ballot this November for a candidate to fill the last two years of Shogren’s four-year term, Superintendent Heidi Hahn told the board the state requires a vacancy to be filled by appointment if it occurs more than 60 days or more than two School Board meetings before the election. This year’s general election falls on Nov. 8, meaning Shogren’s resignation falls just outside the 60-day range.

“We have been having lots of conversations with the Minnesota School Boards Association to make sure we’re aligning with statutory requirements,” Hahn said Monday.

After consulting with the state’s school board association, Hahn told board members they had two options. They could accept applications, interview prospective candidates and then vote on who to appoint, as has been the past practice, or they could choose to appoint someone without taking applications.

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State statute requires a 30-day waiting period after a board appoints someone to fill a vacancy before the appointment takes effect. This period allows for members of the public to petition against the appointee if they so choose. So if the board appoints someone at the September meeting, that 30 days would not yet be up before the October board meeting, meaning the first meeting the appointee could attend as a board member would be the November meeting.

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And because the election to fill that position is a special election, the person elected can take office as soon as the election results are certified and could begin serving in December. The person appointed, then, would only serve for one meeting.

In talking with state school board association officials, Hahn said the recommendation is to appoint someone who is not currently running for a seat on the board. If board members do not want to go through the application and interview process, Hahn said, state officials recommend appointing someone who has previously served on the board but is not running in the election. Whoever is appointed must live in the school district.

Board members opted not to go through the application and interview process and to follow the state officials’ recommendation to appoint a former board member to fill in for one meeting. Board Chair Ruth Nelson said she would reach out to former board members before the September meeting to determine if anyone is available and willing to be appointed.

The election

Candidates began filing for open school board seats Aug. 2. This year’s ballot includes three four-year terms for the seats currently occupied by Tom Haglin, Ruth Nelson and Charles Black Lance. It also includes a special two-year term for the seat of Bob Nystrom, who resigned last fall. Sarah Speer was appointed to fill the seat until this year’s special election. The last two years of Shogren’s seat will also be on the ballot, meaning five of the six board seats are up for election.

Speer has filed to run for a four-year seat, which means she will not attend the December meeting as a school board member, as the top two vote-getters among those running for the two special seats will be able to begin serving as soon as election results are certified in November.

Seven candidates have filed to run for the three four-year seats as of Monday. They are: Black Lance, DJ Dondelinger, Randy “RJ” Heidmann, Elisa Kortenayer, Derek Owen, Lowell Smith and Speer. Four candidates have filed for the two two-year seats as of Monday. They are: Anthony Bonsante, Tris Cluever, Mike Stanek and John Ward.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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