Holly Thompson

Holly Thompson

by Jim Boyle


The Elk River Area School Board has for the first time in more than four years elected a new leader for its seven-member body.

Holly Thompson, who was elected to her fourth term this past November by the citizens of Elk River, Rogers, Otsego and Zimmerman, was selected on Jan. 11 by her colleagues to be their chairwoman.

The Zimmerman resident, who previously served as the chairwoman and has been the vice-chairwoman since January 2017, thanked fellow members of the board for the “vote of confidence” and added she looks forward to serving.

Thompson, along with board members Joel Nelson and Christi Tullbane, were sworn in on Monday. All three ran unopposed for reelection in the Nov. 3 elections. They gave their oath in unison.

Thompson replaces Chairman Shane Steinbrecher, also of Zimmerman, who was not at the meeting and tending to a minor family medical emergency. He had the new chair read a statement from him before the conclusion of the Jan. 11 meeting.

Steinbrecher told the Star News he sees the changes as a chance to build more capacity on the board and that he will remain fully engaged.

He said on Jan. 12 that he has learned so much in his time as board chair that helps him in both his personal and professional life and has become a better person for it. He said this year will be a complex year intensified by a moving target that is the pandemic. He said what he has appreciated most about the current board is the trust and open conversations they have with one another.

“That takes time (to achieve),” he said.

Kim Michels, who was elected in 2018, was elected the vice chairwoman on 6-0 vote. Tony Walter and Sarah Weis will also serve as directors with Steinbrecher, Tullbane and Nelson.

The clerk position and treasurer position were combined, like they have been in the past, but with more direction coming down from the Minnesota School Board’s Association, the board appointed a District 728 staff member instead of a board member to handle that dual role. Kim Eisenschenk, the director of business services, was named to that position.

The Elk River Area School Board must meet in the first week of January and organize by selecting a chair, clerk and a treasurer, who shall hold their offices for one year and until their successors are selected and qualify.

The persons who perform the duties of the clerk and treasurer need not be members of the board, and the board by resolution may combine the duties of the offices of clerk and treasurer for a single person in the office of business affairs, according 2019 state statutes.

“We thank Mr. Steinbrecher for his leadership, his dedication to our ISD 728 families and his vision for our district into this decade of learning,” Superintendent Dan Bittman said in a press release. “He’s been a supporter for all families, and the district has accomplished much during his time as board chair.

“We also thank Holly Thompson and Kim Michels for their willingness to serve in new roles, and are looking forward to another successful and exciting year ahead.”

In another matter as part of the organizational meeting, School Board members kept their compensation for their work the same as it was this past year. It has been the same since 2002. When the question was raised, no one spoke.

“I guess we’ll keep it where it’s at,” Thompson said.

Thompson appointed board members to the following committees:

•Sara Weis was appointed to serve as the Elk River Area School Board representative for the Minnesota State High School League.

•Thompson, Nelson, and Walter were named to the superintendent evaluation committee.

•Tullbane was appointed to serve as the liaison for the board on the Northwest Suburban Integration School District Board.

•Michels and Weis were appointed to the Project Oversight Team.

•Steinbrecher was appointed the liaison for the board on the Association of Metropolitan School Districts Board.

•Nelson, Thompson and either Tullbane or Walter were appointed to serve as the liaison to the Board Scholarship Committee.

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