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Boyd, Gelbmann, Kath to seek re-election to District 833 School Board

District 833 School Board member Jim Gelbmann is convinced that moving school board elections from odd to even years is good for voters, but the rest of the board didn't agree at the June 2 workshop.

The discussion came up when the board noted that the filing for three board positions opens on Aug. 9 and closes on Aug. 23.

The filing dates are expected to be approved at the June 16 meeting.

Board members Ron Kath, chairwoman Leslee Boyd and Gelbmann, at the end of four-year terms, are up for re-election. All indicated they are running for re-election in November.

Superintendent Mark Porter, who is not recommending a change, said some metropolitan school districts, such as Eden Prairie, Anoka Hennipen, Forest Lake and Hastings hold elections in even years, according to the Minnesota School Boards Association.

A change, which would take place over two terms, or eight years, would involve extending some terms by one year.

Gelbmann, who is deputy Minnesota secretary of state, the agency that oversees all state elections, said he's seen cities and school districts shift to even-year elections.

There is a financial benefit in that the ballot is shared with federal, state, county, city and other local races.

It would also increase voter turnout, Gelbmann said, because 10 percent to 12 percent of voters vote in an odd-year election if there are no referendums on the ballot.

A District 833 odd-year election costs about $25,000, Porter said, adding that he's not sure how much would be saved by moving to even years. The cost depends on how much of the ballot is taken up for school elections.

Boyd said the district changing to even years need not affect referendums since the board could hold one in an odd year.

In an odd year, people vote because they are really interested in schools, said Board member Marsha Adou.

Kath said school board elections would "get lost" in the list of others running for office. If there were a "huge cost" to keeping odd-year elections, he might consider changing, he said.

"Citizens have an obligation to vote in all elections," Kath said.

Board member Tracy Brunnette said the election would get more political in even years. Board members need to work well with everybody, she said, and be nonpartisan.

Having had a role in the recount that elected Sen. Al Franken, Gelbmann said there was a "significant drop off" in the number of people voting for those at the bottom of the ballot after the legislative races.

Voting in favor of referendums has more to do with support for the school district, he said. "I have confidence in the voters."

There is merit in keeping elections nonpartisan, Gelbmann said during a June 2 workshop discussion, adding that the election two years ago was the first one where candidates were endorsed by political parties.

Board members Laurie Johnson and David Kemper were endorsed by the Republican Party.

Kath said it would not be fair if Johnson and Kemper didn't have a chance to respond to Gelbmann's endorsement comment.

Kemper, who does not favor changing to even years, said people voted for him because he's fiscally conservative.

Johnson said Gelbmann's reasoning is a "stretch in logic."

"There was no endorsement on the ballot," Johnson said.

She disagreed with Gelbmann's assertion that there have been no endorsements in school board elections.

"A teacher's union endorsement is tantamount to a Democratic endorsement," Johnson said.

Gelbmann apologized for misstating that there's never been political endorsements in school board elections. All school board candidates in St. Paul and Minneapolis are endorsed, he said, but it was the first election in District 833 to have endorsed candidates.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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