After receiving nine applications for the vacant school board position, the Centennial School Board has now reviewed applications and interviewed the top four candidates. The board will officially appoint its pick in December, and the selected candidate will be sworn in in January.
School Board Director Stephanie Carlson, whose term was supposed to run through 2024, submitted her resignation last month. Her resignation letter explained that she resigned because of personal reasons.
According to the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA), around 70 board members have resigned from their positions in 2021 within the state — triple the number of resignations in a typical year.
The process to fill the vacant seat for a one-year term is nearly complete. The district accepted applications from Nov. 2 through Nov. 12. The board reviewed all nine applications at its Nov. 15 meeting and decided which candidates it wanted to learn more about through personal interviews.
“I think we have nine great candidates,” said school board Director Tom Knisely. “The bottom line is that there are going to be good people who aren’t appointed.”
During the meeting, which was open to the public per the Minnesota Open Meeting Law, board applicants were referred to by letter to comply with the state's Data Practices Act, which protects certain personal information. However, per the Data Practices Act, names and other information, regarding applicants are public information. The nine candidates include: Robert Vollbrecht, Deborah Dahlberg, Gina Schmittdiel, Nicole Dufour, Kara Schmitz, John Burns, Cindy Hansen, Becky Squibbs and Laura Gannon.
School board members each had a chance to choose their top two candidates. There seemed to be a general consensus that candidate A would be a great fit.
Board Treasurer Chris Bettinger said he was leaning toward candidate A because of their experience. “When I started on the school board, it took me a year to figure out what was happening. It is a learning curve,” he explained. “To have somebody come in without that experience for a one-year appointed position, I think they are going to be spending that whole year learning. It would be nice to have somebody that can come in on the run.”
Director Sue Linser said she agreed. “I’ve been here for nine months, and I’m getting to the point where I feel like I have an impact, but prior to that it was very hard to come up to speed,” she said.
Board Chair Suzy Guthmueller said she agreed that candidate A would be a good choice. “I believe that person has a lot of the skills we are looking for,” she said. “Right now, we (school boards) are in a different time than we have ever been in. I think that that person could come in and hit the ground running and be a real contributor right away, and I think that would be really fabulous for us to have that. I think that would be a really good fit for our board.”
Board Clerk Kathryn Timm said she was also looking at candidate G for the same reason as candidate A: experience. “That’s a real interesting mix, with school experience in a different district and government leadership experience,” she said. “I have some prior experience with working with them, not in this type of a scenario, but I think they would bring a lot of good, thoughtful perspective to us.”
She also mentioned candidate I for the experience they would bring from another state as well as Parent Teacher Association (PTA) experience.
Both Linser and Bettinger agreed candidate G should be interviewed. Knisely mentioned candidates C and F.
Ultimately, the board decided to interview four candidates: John Burns, Laura Gannon, Cindy Hansen and Robert Vollbrecht. The 20-minute interviews were scheduled for Nov. 22, after press deadlines.
The board’s pick will be appointed at the Dec. 6 meeting, and the new candidate will officially be sworn in Jan. 10. In November 2022, voters will have the opportunity to fill three board seats in addition to the seat vacated by Carlson. The winner of that special election will serve a two-year term.
“I’m very pleased that we had so much interest and great candidates, and community members that wanted to step up and serve,” Guthmueller said.
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