Bloomington school board’s replacement plan beginning to take shape

They have yet to finalize a process, but the Bloomington Board of Education is leaning toward taking applications to fill the seat soon to be vacated by Board Chairwoman Melissa Halvorson Wiklund.

Wiklund has not resigned from the board, but she will do so in the coming weeks, as she was elected last month to represent Senate District 50 in the Minnesota Senate and state law prohibits her from holding two elected offices.

The school board doesn’t need her resignation, however, to begin discussing how to fill her seat. The board’s remaining six members will appoint Wiklund’s replacement, and have few guidelines to follow in doing so, according to board attorney David Holman. “There is no protocol,” he said.

Boardmember Tim Culver prompted a discussion of the topic during the board’s Nov. 13 meeting. Last week board members were back at it, volleying ideas about when and how to fill the soon-to-be-vacated seat.

“We should be thinking long term,” said Vice Chair Mark Hibbs, who expressed a preference for appointing a replacement that has a chance at being a long-term member of the board.

The board’s appointee will complete the final year of Wiklund’s term and would need to seek election to the board next fall in order to serve beyond 2013.

Boardmember Arlene Bush questioned if it would be beneficial to appoint a former board member to fill the vacancy, noting that there are several former board members available to choose from.

“I think that makes sense,” Boardmember Dick Bergstrom said. Bergstrom, who expressed concern about conducting district business with six representatives, favored adding an experienced person to the board since he and Boardmember Nelly Korman are still completing their first year on the board.

Culver said that it is important to give the community an opportunity to participate in the process. Korman concurred, saying that she expects to be surprised by the number of residents interested in filling Wiklund’s seat.

Given there has been interest in school board seats during past elections, Hibbs lobbied toward appointing a candidate that has interest in serving more than a year. By doing so, the appointee will be up to speed by next fall’s election, when new board members could be elected, he explained.

But the appointee would still have to win election to a four-year seat next fall in order to continue serving, and that’s something the board can’t guarantee in choosing its appointee, Bergstrom noted.

Differing opinions on pedigree aside, the board’s three-member Superintendent Evaluation Committee is developing a proposal for choosing Wiklund’s replacement, a proposal expected at the board’s Dec. 10 meeting.

Board members were invited to submit their ideas for application questions and other concerns to committee members. The committee – composed of Bergstrom, Culver and Hibbs – will present its proposal, including a timeline and application requirements, next week.

Assuming the board moves ahead with an application process, the proposal should also include guidelines on how the applications are screened prior to interviews the board may conduct.