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Names of seven District 833 School Board applicants released

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The seven applicants for a vacant District 833 School Board seat include a former board member, school volunteers, previous board candidates and education administrators.

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The School Board on Thursday released the names of the applicants for the seat being vacated this month by Jim Gelbmann.

The applicants are Leslee Boyd, Michael Edman, Kimberly Graff, Jonathan Hunt, Molly Lutz, Joe Slavin and Michelle Witte. All have had or will have children in the school district. Five of the seven live in Woodbury; two are Cottage Grove residents.

The School Board will interview all seven candidates at a special meeting beginning at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 12. Board members previously intended to interview only six, but amended the plan after receiving seven applications.

The interview schedule is: Graff, 5:35 p.m.; Slavin, 6:05 p.m.; Lutz, 6:35 p.m.; Witte, 7:05 p.m.; Boyd, 7:35 p.m.; Edman, 8:05 p.m.; and Hunt, 8:35 p.m. Interviews will be at the District Service Center in Cottage Grove and are open to the public.

Board members will make their pick through a series of votes after the interview process.

Here is some background on the applicants:

Leslee Boyd of Woodbury. A former School Board member who stepped down in December 2012 to move to Oklahoma with her family, Boyd returned to the district due to “family concerns,” she wrote in her application. Boyd served on the School Board from 2008-12, previously led a pro-school referendum campaign and is chair of the South Washington County Schools Education Foundation.

“I have only been away from the board for a year and my knowledge and experience with district and board practices would allow me to immediately focus on the issues at hand,” Boyd wrote in her application.

Michael Edman of Cottage Grove. Edman, a private-practice attorney, ran unsuccessfully for a School Board seat last fall. He serves on the Cottage Grove Public Works Commission and has served on the Cottage Grove Charter Commission and the Washington County Community Corrections Advisory Committee. Though Edman said other applicants may have longer lists of school involvement, he said he is very qualified.

“I think it’s important that the board pick a candidate that will work well with your existing members, can communicate effectively to the public and has the time and energy to be engaged,” Edman wrote.

Kimberly Graff of Cottage Grove. Graff works for the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust. She has volunteered in a number of District 833 schools, served as assistant speech coach at Woodbury Junior High, coordinated the Cottage Grove youth lacrosse program and now serves on the Cottage Grove Planning Commission.

“I live in Cottage Grove, but I have worked in St. Paul Park and Woodbury which means I have a unique perspective on all of the communities that make up this district, not just the one where my house happens to site,” Graff wrote.

Jonathan Hunt of Woodbury. Hunt applied for a previous open seat on the School Board. He is educator director at the Minnesota Department of Corrections’ Shakopee facility and is a former teacher in the Northeast Metro-916 Intermediate School District and the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists. Hunt said he has an extensive background in education.

“Creating, celebrating and maintaining the programs within the district are important factors in building a community that feels excited and positive about the places the district is going,” Hunt wrote.

Molly Lutz of Woodbury. Lutz lost a recount election for a School Board seat in 2013, and said there is a large group in the community that believes she would represent them well in the position. Lutz has served in a variety of district and school volunteer positions. She currently is PTO president at Woodbury Middle School, and a member of the District 833 Communicators Committee.

“As a school board member, I would put our students first, scrutinize spending, support all students’ education and achievement, and be a representative to our community members,” Lutz wrote.

Joe Slavin of Woodbury. Slavin lives in District 833 but is a principal at Skyview Middle School in neighboring North St. Paul, Maplewood and Oakdale school district. He is the East Ridge Athletic Association traveling softball director. Slavin said the district’s work is “often incredibly rewarding” but at times very challenging.

“I understand the challenges and feel that I am more than suited to support the district and School Board,” Slavin wrote.

Michelle Witte of Woodbury. Witte is a volunteer in the district, a leader with the Woodbury Community Theatre and helped lead the effort to create the Merrill Community Arts Center, where she works as operations director. Witte is a member of the district’s Curriculum Advisory Committee. She said her “active volunteer service and leadership” make her well qualified to serve on the School Board.

“I would greatly welcome the opportunity to join the current experienced governance and administrative team to serve the students and families of our community during this important time of growth and change in our district,” Witte wrote.

Gelbmann is stepping down at the end of the month, citing a busy work schedule and personal and health issues. His term ends December 2015. The appointed board member would begin serving in July and fill out the remainder of Gelbmann’s term.

The application period ended May 30, but the district did not release the names of the applicants until after the School Board's meeting Thursday. During the meeting, the board approved a resolution that essentially says board members will be treated as elected officials, not school employees, for the purposes of the Minnesota Data Practices Act. That law governs what personnel data is public and private. The district claimed that it legally could not release the applicants' information prior to approval of the resolution changing the status of board members.

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Scott Wente
Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
(651) 459-7600
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