Anticipating the departure of Vice Chair Leny Wallen-Friedman, the Edina School Board will begin the process for filling the soon-to-be vacant seat.
Wallen-Friedman, who has served on the board since 2012, will move to Connecticut, leaving his role by the end of the month. Because he will no longer be living within the district, Wallen-Friedman must cut his elected tenure short, which runs through December 2023.
Wallen-Friedman told the Sun Current he was “a little disappointed about not being able to stay longer.”
But he added, “It was really quite an honor. … Just to have the opportunity to work on behalf of the community was great.”
The board approved a resolution May 9 acknowledging the upcoming vacancy and the process for filling it, which will include a special election in November. Until then, the board must appoint an interim boardmember under a process determined by the board per Minnesota statute.
Based on recommendations from the Minnesota School Board Association and the board’s Governance Committee, as well as the district’s legal counsel, the board approved the process of appointing an interim boardmember as someone who has previously served as a boardmember elected by the community, board documents state. That person has not yet been officially chosen.
The board has full discretion on the way in which an interim boardmember is selected, which could have included taking applications, a direct appointment or a hybrid approach. But the board decided to appoint a previous boardmember for several reasons, according to board documents, such as the limited timeframe that the interim member will be in the seat, familiarity with board practices and neutrality in picking someone who does not intend to run for election in the special election.
The appointment of a previous boardmember to fill the interim seat is intended to be “least disruptive” to board operations and district governance, board documents said.
The board is expected to discuss and appoint an interim boardmember by the beginning of June. A resolution approving the interim boardmember is expected June 20, when the appointee would take the oath of office, board documents said.
The tentative goal is for the appointee to begin serving in the role in August, according to a district news release.
The interim boardmember will remain in the seat until the special election, scheduled for Nov. 8. After the community vote, the newly elected boardmember will stay in the role for a year – until the end of what would have been Wallin-Friedman’s term.
The district is expected to hold an information session about the special election in late July.
Prior to the vote on the resolution May 9, Board Chair Erica Allenburg led a commendation for Wallen-Friedman at the board meeting. She read off of a document, recognizing the boardmember for his service to the board.
“His years of experience provided a breadth and depth of knowledge to all discussions, and his expertise in finance and law always provided valuable context in many discussions,” the commendation reads. “Vice Chair Wallen-Friedman has been a very dedicated, pragmatic, and strategic-minded Board member.”
The commendation points out Wallen-Friedman’s service to the board. He had served as board chair for four years and on all of its committees at some point, including policy, finance and facilities, teaching and learning and human resources, which is now called the Governance Committee.
Wallen-Friedman has also been the board liaison to several groups, such as the Student Activities Advisory Committee and the Early Childhood Special Education Committee.
Even before being elected to the board, Wallen-Friedman served on the Finance and Facilities Committee for 10 years, he told the Sun Current.
Wallen-Friedman said he and his wife had been seeking a place in the eastern U.S. to be closer to their children, who live and attend school in the region.
“I’m not excited about the idea of leaving before the end of the term, I had hoped to either finish it or get much closer,” Wallen-Friedman said, adding that he ran for a third term to continue providing seasoned experience to the board.
Wallen-Friedman said he thanks the community for giving him “the opportunity to serve.”
“It’s been very, very interesting work, a lot of stuff you learn, good people to work with, so it’s been a good 10-plus years on the board,” he said.
– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent