District 200 School Board votes to move school board elections to even years

By Graham P. Johnson
Posted 7/4/24

On Wednesday, June 26, the District 200 School Board joined many other school boards across the state by voting to switch to even year school board elections by extending current members’ terms …

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District 200 School Board votes to move school board elections to even years

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On Wednesday, June 26, the District 200 School Board joined many other school boards across the state by voting to switch to even year school board elections by extending current members’ terms by one year with a vote of 5-2. The move has been discussed in numerous closed-door work sessions and is expected to both save the district money as well as increase voter turnout in future elections. Defenders of odd-year elections argue that grouping school board elections with county, state and federal races further polarizes them.
While it was clear that the board agreed on the move to even-year elections, how to make that switch was still up in the air.
Before the June 26 school board meeting, the board had brought forth two motions in order to move the school board to even year elections: adding a year to their own terms and having two three-year elections.
Before the vote, Chair Carrie Tate opened discussion on the topic saying, “I truly don’t know which way the board is going.”
Then the board members had their say.
Treasurer Mark Zuzek, one of the dissenting votes to the motion, agreed that the board should switch to even year elections “for financial reasons,” but that “based on the amount of feedback that we’ve gotten and the type of feedback that we’ve gotten, I would have chosen to do it the other way.”
Director Philip Biermaier had no qualms about the decision: “To think that we got into some smoke-filled room and wanted to get a power grab, which has been some of the accusations out there, is a bit ridiculous […] I’m tired of talking about this.”
“This decision is a fiscal decision,” said Clerk Melissa Millner.
Director Jenny Wiederholt-Pine referenced discussions with other school board members and districts who told her extending school board terms “is how you fix this. Why would you even consider anything else?”
Director Matt Bruns, the other dissenting vote, referenced the potential increased voter turnout for even year elections: “I think in the spirit of democracy, we do that: increase community participation.”
Chair Tate spoke against the motion to extend terms saying, “Part of our ethics code for the board is to vote our conscience and my conscience tells me I am not in favor of elected officials extending their own terms in general.” Despite that, Chair Tate referenced issues of board continuity as well as the difficulty in navigating the legal requirements of putting on an election which moved her to voting to extend board members’ terms.
Other issues discussed at the June 26 school board meeting included a legislative summary and annual student wellness report.
The legislative summary referenced the supplemental education budget bill, which provided $43 million in one-time funding. Among other changes, the bill provides compensation for training and frees up other allocated funds for the Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act, better known as the READ Act. The READ Act is a 2023 bill designed to “have every Minnesota child reading at or above grade level every year, beginning in kindergarten, and to support multilingual learner and students receiving special education services in achieving their individualized reading goals,” according to the Minnesota Department of Education.
The legislative summary also referenced several motions that did not pass in this year’s legislative session including $25 minimum for hourly employees, a graduation requirement to complete FAFSA, mental health screening for all students, and the much-discussed ban on bird hatching in schools.
The annual student wellness report presented at the meeting is based off of spring 2024 surveys of over 1,000 students from elementary to high school, as well as parents and staff. It poses questions ranging from diet to stress level to feelings of safety in schools to level of cell phone usage.
Notable metrics from these student surveys include Hastings Middle School student’s feelings of safety in schools returning to above pre-pandemic levels as well as fewer Hastings High School students saying that social media has a positive impact on their life than in any other survey.
To watch a full video of school board meeting, visit Hastings Community TV’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/@HastingsCommunityTV
To view full agendas for school board meetings, visit https://meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/931