Bloomington School Board appointment process finalized
The process for filling a forthcoming Bloomington Board of Education vacancy has been finalized.
At its Dec. 10 meeting the board agreed unanimously on a plan for filling the seat of Chairwoman Melissa Halvorson Wiklund. Applications for appointment to the to-be-vacated seat are due Dec. 28.
Wiklund, elected to the Minnesota State Senate last month, has yet to step down from the board, and intends to wait until the start of her term in the senate before resigning from the board. Legally she cannot hold both elected seats.
The board cannot appoint her replacement until she resigns, however, so Wiklund won’t get to vote on who takes her place, but she is allowed to influence the outcome of the process, and seems intent on doing so, although not everyone on the board thinks she should.
Boardmember Dick Bergstrom, part of the committee that assembled the appointment process, asked Wiklund to forgo participating in the selection and interviewing of applicants for her seat. He argued that it was a small step from participating in the process to voting for her replacement.
Other board members, however, were open to Wiklund’s participation. Vice-Chairman Mark Hibbs said there was no ethical reason she shouldn’t be allowed to participate in the process, and argued that any other board member in the same situation would want to have some influence on the outcome.
In defending her intent to participate, Wiklund said she was elected to serve the interests of the district.
Regardless of when Wiklund resigns, the board is aiming to replace her in time for its Jan. 14 meeting. The board plans to choose her replacement at a special meeting on Jan. 8, the day Wiklund begins her term as a state senator, Hibbs noted.
That replacement could be a former board member, and more than one former board member has expressed a willingness to serve the final year of Wiklund’s term, according to Boardmember Arlene Bush.
The board is not obligated to create an application-and-interview process to fill the seat. If a majority of the board wants to appoint a qualified resident to serve out the remainder of the term, it could do so without calling for applicants. Bush argued in favor of appointing a former board member, suggesting that the appointee wouldn’t have the learning curve of a resident who has not previously served.
Boardmember Maureen Bartolotta favored the idea also, noting that during an election process, voters have multiple opportunities to get to know candidates. Under the proposed process, the board will be making its appointment based upon limited interaction with applicants, she explained.
Boardmember Tim Culver noted that the board hadn’t formally invited former board members to submit their name for consideration to fill Wiklund’s seat, and questioned if previous service to the district is the most important consideration in appointing her replacement. He suggested other considerations – such as financial expertise, affiliation with school committees or associations and experience with early childhood education – may be worth considering in choosing a new member. Having children currently enrolled in Bloomington schools may also be criteria worth considering, he noted.
A process that opens the seat to all members of the community is important, according to Boardmember Nelly Korman. Noting that the application process doesn’t exclude former board members from consideration, “I think this is fair,” she said.
Applications for the seat are available through the district’s website and at the district office. Once the application period closes Dec. 28 board members will screen the applications, with each member nominating up to three applicants for interviews. All applicants receiving three or more nominations by Jan. 2 will be invited for an interview during a special meeting. The meeting is 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 5.
Participating board members will each draft one question for the candidate interviews. Candidates will be given approximately 30 minutes for their interview.
The board will hold another meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, to select Wiklund’s replacement.
Applications are available online at bit.ly/boardseat.