The St. Paul DFL Party will be adding an unexpected endorsement to its roster for the elections this fall: a candidate to fill the newly vacated seat on St. Paul Public Schools’ school board.
After a successful run last November, in which all four of the party’s picks were elected to the seven-member board, the board majority could potentially expand its ranks.
While members of the new board majority have already proven that they don’t agree on every issue — with a number of split votes at recent meetings — the endorsement process will likely rekindle political tensions that have carried over from last fall.
Jean O’Connell, the board member who resigned at the June 21 board meeting after a 5-2 vote to fire Superintendent Valeria Silva without cause, spoke critically of the new board leadership. She chose stepping down as an act of public protest. But that also meant she would be leaving her seat up for grabs.
As required by law, the board will be filling the vacancy by appointment prior to holding a special election Nov. 8. This interim board member will serve about a two-month period before voters select who will serve for the remainder of O’Connell’s term, which expires in December 2017.
Applications for the interim position will be available July 13 and will be accepted through 5 p.m. on July 22. Once the board has reviewed all applications, they will conduct interviews on Aug. 2, beginning at 4 p.m. Each interview will consist of a six-minute presentation by the candidate, followed by 10 minutes for questions from the board. That same evening, the board will take a final vote to appoint its preferred candidate.
If fewer than six candidates apply, the board will interview all candidates. If more than six apply, each board member will select two candidates to advance to the interview round.
On a related note, regarding leadership housekeeping items, the board has yet to discuss the details of the search process for selecting a new superintendent.
Interim Superintendent John Thein has already taken a seat at the table to steer the district through a transition period, while Silva stays employed by the district in a full-time advisory role. But a number of questions remain: What does the timeline look like? Will the board hire an outside search firm? How will the community be engaged in the process? How does the board intend to attract the most qualified candidates?
A retreat had been scheduled for July 7 for board members, along with Thein, to discuss these sorts of questions. But it was postponed because of the vigil that was held for Philando Castile at the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, where he had worked as a cafeteria supervisor. The new date has yet to be announced.