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Editorial: Strong 833 School Board applicants slate is promising

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opinion Cottage Grove, 55016

Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

It looked like slim pickings for the open District 833 School Board seat heading into the final days of the recent application period. Nobody had applied.

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That would be concerning, for sure, considering the size of the district; interest in the recent school referendum; attention paid to recent administrative changes; and the many important issues facing South Washington County Schools — tough budget decisions, building space challenges and the growth of tech-based curriculum, to name just a few.

But any concern about a lack of interest in the open board seat — which is being vacated mid-term by Jim Gelbmann — disappeared by the close of the application period.

Seven people with varying but generally impressive education backgrounds stepped forward. They’ll all be interviewed Thursday, June 12.

Those who applied include: Leslee Boyd, a former board member with district volunteer experience; Michael Edman, a former board candidate with young children and desire to get more involved; Kimberly Graff, a community and school volunteer with experience in school and civic activities; Jonathan Hunt, a former board applicant with an extensive background in education instruction; Molly Lutz, a school volunteer who missed a spot on the board in last fall’s election by the narrowest of margins — six votes in a recount; Joe Slavin, an East Ridge youth softball coach and principal in neighboring School District 622; and Michelle Witte, a well-known name in community theater with considerable school and community involvement.

Appointments can be a tricky process, but the board has the fortune of picking from a strong slate of candidates. Most have demonstrated a serious commitment to public education, whether that’s been on the professional or volunteer side.

Also, they all have children who have been or will be enrolled in the local schools. Public school enrollment shouldn’t be a determining factor in the selection, but it certainly would add valued perspective at a time when only three of seven board members currently have kids in local schools.

The strength of the slate will make for a hard decision — as well it should be.

While it’s true that Woodbury has a stronger representation than other communities among applicants, we’re not especially concerned where the next member hails from; board membership already comprises members from all south Washington County cities.

The board ought to zero in on candidates with a long-term interest in serving the district. That doesn’t mean the appointee must pledge to seek election when the term is up, but the board should place a high premium on commitment to and enthusiasm for education in south Washington County.

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