At its regular meeting on Feb. 11, the North Branch Area Public Schools School Board appointed Jesse LaValla to fill the vacant seat left by Kirby Ekstrom when he retired in January. LaValla took his oath of office at the March 11 school board meeting.

LaValla’s ties to North Branch Area Public Schools are wide and deep. A 2007 graduate, LaValla met his wife Mandi (Irkfetz, of Harris) in a fifth grade classroom, and he is the third generation of his family to graduate from North Branch Area High School.

Following college LaValla entered the teaching profession, where he has remained for nine years. He currently works for the Rum River Special Education Cooperative in its Level 4 program, and has K-12 special education licenses in Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) and Emotional Behavior Disorder (EBD).

“I hope to bring the voice of the community. I hope to be someone that the community can come to if they do not understand why the district implements certain ideas. I hope to bring collaboration and shared philosophies with Superintendent Paul and the other board members,” said LaValla about his goals for service. “I think that it is so important to find that balance between what is working in our district and what we maybe need to tweak. I do not wish to bring “change” but to bring a growth mindset that will only empower our stakeholders.”

For fun LaValla enjoys travel and movies, and golf. “I am not very good, but I enjoy being out in the fresh air,” he said.

“We are excited to have Mr. LaValla come forward and fill the remainder of the open board seat left by board member Kirby Ekstrom,” said school board chair Tim MacMillan. “Jesse brings a level of educational experience and vision of making sure all students are given opportunities to meet their educational needs! He will be a great addition to the board.”

“I so appreciate board member LaValla’s guiding principle of empathy,” said Superintendent Sara Paul, “and I look forward to how that will serve the perspectives of students, families, and the broader community.”

LaValla will take his seat on the school board at the March 11 meeting, and his appointment will expire in November of 2021. A special election will be held on Nov. 2 for the remainder of Ekstrom’s original term, which ends January of 2023.

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