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Board approves process to fill board vacancy

Aerial view of Kuhlman stadium with water tower in foreground.

The Edina School Board approved a process to fill a vacancy on the Board, following the resignation of Vice Chair Leny Wallen-Friedman, who is relocating to Connecticut. Effective May 31, 2022, Wallen-Friedman will no longer be eligible to complete his elected tenure, which runs through December 2023. The Board approved a process that includes selecting an interim member until a new Board member is elected after a special election that will be held in November.

Minnesota Statute provides direction for how School Boards need to fill a vacancy, a process that Trevor Helmers, the district’s legal counsel, outlined at the Board Work Session on May 9. Helmers told the Board that they are required to appoint an interim member to fill the position until a special election can be held to fill the unexpired term. State Statute also requires that the Special Election occur no later than the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November following the vacancy, which in this case will align with the Nov. 8, 2022, Election Day.

There are multiple ways for the Board to appoint an interim board member, Helmers told the Board, which include taking applications and holding interviews, a direct appointment, or other hybrid approaches. The Board has discretion in selecting which method it feels best serves the district.

In advance of the Board Work Session discussion, the Board’s Governance Committee analyzed methods used by school boards in Minnesota, best practice recommendations from the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA), and a thorough review by legal counsel, and recommended the Board directly appoint an interim member who is a former Board member, previously elected by the community, for the following reasons:

  • Least disruptive to Board operations and school district governance.

  • The time period the interim Board member will be on the Board is a very short period of time as whomever wins the Special Election in November would start immediately after votes are canvassed.

  • The time period to have an open-ended collection of interested individuals is lengthy and laborious and would lead to a very limited time-frame for an individual to join the Board, train and effectively have any impact on the Board.

  • Having a prior Board member serve in this interim capacity enables the Board to have someone already familiar with MSBA practices, Board practices and protocols, and associated Minnesota laws and statutes.

  • Allows the Board to have someone fill specific gaps left by Vice Chair Wallen-Friedman’s absence, most notably financial and legal expertise.

  • Keeps the Board neutral in the upcoming special election by choosing someone for the interim position who is not planning to run for election in the special election.

  • Avoids confusion in the community with communications of the overlapping processes.

The next step in the Board’s appointment process is to discuss and achieve consensus on an evaluation rubric prioritizing criteria for a Board appointee, and develop a timeline and next steps. This discussion will be on the agenda at the May 17 Board Work Session. After the appointee is named and confirmed, State Statute mandates a 30-day waiting period before the appointee can serve as an acting member of the Board. The tentative goal is for an appointee to begin serving as an interim Board member in August.

Special Election in November
In July, the Board will vote on a resolution for a Special Election for one School Board member who will fill the unexpired tenure of Wallen-Friedman. As required by State Statute, the Special Election for the Board seat would occur in the Nov. 8 election. The newly elected member would take office upon completion of the canvas and certification of the election results (approximately 14 days from the Nov. 8 election day) and will continue to serve through December 2023. In late July, the district will hold an information session about the special election.

View the May 9 Board Work Session agenda for more details.