Who should the School Board appoint to the open seat?

Northfield School Board, Dec. 2008 Ray Cox, Kathy Feltes, Julie Pritchard and Mitchell Sellner have applied for an open position on the Northfield School Board, recently vacated by Diane Cirksena. A subcommittee of the board has been interviewing the four reviewing the four’s applications and will make a recommendation at next Monday’s meeting. For more, see the Sept. 18 Nfld News story: Four apply for open school board spot. Who should the Board appoint and why?


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    Ray Cox told me last night that he’s not been interviewed by anyone on the School Board. A closer reading of the Nfld News article and the Board minutes for Aug 10 show that I should have written “reviewing the four’s applications” not “interviewing the four.” I’ve made the edit to the blog post.

    Process for Filling the Vacancy on the School Board.

    The Board will need to appoint someone to serve the portion of the vacated position from September 28, 2009 through December 31, 2010. In November 2010 a special election will be held to elect someone to fill the remaining two years of the vacated position (1/1/11 through 12/31/12).

    Board Chair Nelson presented her recommendation of a process to fill the vacancy on the Northfield Board of Education. She recommended an open application process. Interested individuals would complete an application with three basic questions: why do you want to serve on the School Board, applicant’s experience relative to the Northfield School District; and applicant’s experience working within a group or board-type setting. Applications would be due by September 15, 2009. A subcommittee of three School Board members would review the applications and make a recommendation to the full Board at its September 28th meeting. An appointment would be made at that time. Nelson asked that Board members interested in serving on the subcommittee to contact her.

    September 26, 2009
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Anyone know who’s on the subcommittee?

    September 26, 2009
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    I saw Board member Ellen Iverson at GBM this morning and she said that Kari Nelson, Noel Stratmoen, and Mike Berthelsen on are the subcommittee.

    Are their deliberations public?

    September 26, 2009
  4. kiffi summa said:

    According to the statute on open meeting law, any subcommittee (of a board that is governed by the statute) is also subject to the law.

    This is broken all the time by various groups; if the local culture is not collectively interested in having its governing bodies obey this law, then it constantly, and for years, will slip by uncontrolled… i.e., “don’t make waves”.

    Witness the Hospital Board … that situation has been going on for years.
    Currently ongoing at the EDA…

    What should be the role of a City Attorney, in this situation?

    September 26, 2009
  5. Rob Hardy said:

    Kiffi’s right. If the subcommittee is a subcommittee of the Board, as it is in this case, its meeting should be open, and there should be adequate notification of their meeting times, and the minutes should be available for public inspection.

    Minnesota Open Meeting Law (.pdf)

    September 26, 2009
  6. Kathie Galotti said:

    I’m with Kiffi and Rob. Open meeting laws are on the books for a good reason, and they should not be evaded.

    On your original question, Griff, I would hope that the candidate would be someone who is willing to speak up and ask the hard questions–in other words, not another yes-person who accepts on blind faith that everything in the schools and specifically the schools’ administrators are great, great, great….as is the current party line.

    In my opinion, “being a team player” is highly overrated in this town. Some fresh blood, some new perspectives, and someone who cares about CURRICULUM and is willing to speak up for it is sorely, sorely needed.

    September 26, 2009
  7. Rob Hardy said:

    Kathie: Unfortunately, I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that it’s difficult to have any role on the school board other than “yes-person.” It seems to me that the superintendent keeps the board on a pretty short leash, and controls the entire process quite carefully. I spoke recently to a school board member who was frustrated because it seemed impossible to “make a difference” on the school board. This person was uncomfortable with a role as a “yes-person,” but couldn’t find a way around it. So I want to thank the voters of Northfield for not electing me to the school board.

    September 26, 2009
  8. Kathie Galotti said:

    Rob: Yeah, I hear you. I’ve heard exactly the same story from three former school board members (who served at different times). And the problem seems to be getting worse. And it is self-perpetuating—good people who have served in the past and who were independently-minded and put kids’ needs at the center—they get discouraged and stop running for office. So then voters have choices between more yes-people (rah! rah! the Northfield schools have NO problems other than Pawlenty!) and folks who just want to slash the budget to zero or as close to zero as they can get it.

    For what it’s worth, you got my vote this last time, but I have to say I think it’s good for YOU that you didn’t “make” it. Seems to me at this point like first prize is a 3-year term, second prize is two 3-year terms.

    September 26, 2009
  9. kiffi summa said:

    There is only one way around being a “yes-person” : Be in charge of the facts , and ask the ‘hard question’, politely and persistently. Get citizen comments to back up your question. Insist upon an answer, politely and persistently.

    ‘Be’ Ted Kennedy, Rest his mighty soul.

    September 27, 2009
  10. Kathie Galotti said:

    Kiffi: You are absolutely right, of course. I think , though, that if one is serving with a bunch of other yes-folks, it gets soul-wearing to always be that one to stand up, politely or not.

    September 27, 2009
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Anyone know what happened at last night’s School Board meeting? Did the subcommittee ever meet prior to the meeting?

    September 29, 2009
  12. Griff Wigley said:

    I got an email: 5 votes for Julie Pritchard, 1 vote for Ray Cox. I don’t have details yet.

    September 29, 2009
  13. Griff Wigley said:

    The Northfield News posted this story about an hour ago: School board picks Pritchard.

    Anyone know if it’s true? 😉

    Julie Pritchard was selected Monday to fill the school board seat vacated in August by Diane Cirksena. Pritchard, a stay-at-home mom and former PTO president at Sibley Elementary, was chosen 5-1 over three other candidates: Ray Cox, Kathy Feltes and Mitchell Selner.

    Jeff Quinell [sic] cast the lone dissenting vote against Pritchard’s appointment, saying he believed Cox, a local business owner with 15 years of experience on the school board, would bring some diversity to the board.

    September 29, 2009
  14. Rob Hardy said:

    I don’t know if it’s true, but if it is, it’s as I expected.

    September 29, 2009
  15. Kathie Galotti said:

    It’s pretty much the choice I had expected as well.

    September 29, 2009
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    It’s not clear from the paper’s story how the process actually worked.  Judging from this phrase:

    Jeff Quinnell cast the lone dissenting vote against Pritchard’s appointment…

    it would appear that someone (from the subcommittee?) made a motion to recommend Pritchard.

    Did the subcommittee ever meet together? If not, how was the recommendation done?

    September 30, 2009
  17. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: I’m not surprised that you are unclear as to what actually happened, as it is all implied..
    “advocated”, “selected”, “cast the lone dissenting vote” ?
    As usual, a succinct, clear story seems to be an impossible goal to attain.

    Just off the top of my head, what about something like:
    1. the committee/whole board met to approve the selection of a replacement for…
    2. After school board members … and … advocated for … , a motion was made to…
    3. The vote was taken and …
    4. (result)
    and that’s just ‘citizen writing’; obviously not ‘journalism’.

    OK, so I’m complaining about the NFNews again, as are you, Griff. But why can’t they just write a straight , linear story, when required?

    September 30, 2009
  18. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: just got a notice that the 9.28 League of Women Voter’s Observer Report of the School Board meeting has been posted on the LWV site, and it indeed does give more specific information, as to the appointment process, than the Newspaper gave.

    September 30, 2009
  19. Kathleen Vondrasek said:


    It went down something like this:

    1. The subcommittee met prior to Monday’s Board meeting (sorry, don’t recall the date). The subcommittee was Noel, Kari, and Mike (as you indicated in #3).
    2. At Monday’s Board meeting, Noel read aloud the minutes from the subcommittee’s meeting. The minutes included the criteria they used to select the recommended applicants. Julie Pritchard and Ray Cox were the two that the subcommittee recommended to the Board (although the Board could have chosen any one of the 4 applicants).
    3. Jeff threw in his support for Ray.
    4. Mike threw in his support for Julie.
    5. Then Jeff said that the Board should look into why only 4 individuals applied.
    6. Ellen threw in her support for Julie.
    7. Somewhere is there Anne thanked the subcommittee for narrowing down the applicants to be considered.
    8. Then Kari called for a motion. Anne motioned for Julie. Don’t recall who second the motion.
    9. Jeff asked what the process was and Kari explained how it had been motioned and seconded.
    10. They did a roll call vote. All but Jeff voted “aye”.

    Done. Julie was appointed.

    October 1, 2009
  20. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Kiffi. I see the LWV observer report by Jan Mitchell:

    The vacancy on the Board attracted 4 applicants, and each of them had something of value to offer. The sub-committee of the Board considered the applicants and recommended that the Board focus its discussion on Ray Cox and Julie Pritchard. By a vote of 5 to 1, they chose Julie Pritchard for the position, which will be open for a special election in November 2010.  Quinnell was the dissenting vote.

    Kathleen, thanks much for that terrific level of detail. Do you know if 1) there was notification of the subcommittee meeting?; and 2) are there minutes of that subcommittee meeting?

    October 1, 2009
  21. Kathleen Vondrasek said:

    I am not aware of any notification for the subcommittee meeting. There were minutes which Noel read aloud but I have not seen them posted on the District website anywhere.

    October 1, 2009
  22. Kathie Galotti said:

    Sounds like a technical evasion which still breaks the law. You have to open the meeting to the public, not create minutes after the fact. At least, that is my understanding of the open meeting law.

    October 1, 2009

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