The Eden Prairie Schools special election will determine the outcome of two seats on the school board.
Officially, the candidate who receives the most votes will fill the remainder of the term for a seat vacated earlier this year by former Boardmember Veronica Stoltz.
The Eden Prairie School Board voted 5-1 Sept. 27 to appoint the runner-up to fill a seat vacated by former Boardmember Beth Fletcher.
The board voted 6-0 to accept Fletcher’s resignation effective immediately as of the Sept. 27 meeting, which Fletcher did not attend.
Fletcher wrote in an Aug. 19 letter to the board that her family will move to Atlanta.
“While I am looking forward to this new opportunity, I am very sad to be leaving Eden Prairie and the School Board,” Fletcher wrote. “I was extremely humbled by the large number of supporters that voted for me and I encourage them all to continue with their positive support of our schools. Eden Prairie is truly a world-class district.
“I have learned and grown tremendously in a short amount of time on the board and am hopeful I’ve made a positive impact.”
The runner-up who the board plans to appoint would serve until a special election that would coincide with a regular election for the board Nov. 8, 2022.
While Boardmember C.J. Strehl voted against the appointment method to fill Fletcher’s seat in the meantime, other board members spoke in favor of it.
Since the community is already voting in the special election this fall, Boardmember DD Dwivedy said he believes appointing the runner-up would constitute a fair process. He also spoke in support of conducting a special election for the seat in November 2022.
“The time when the community comes together to vote in large numbers is the November general election,” Dwivedy said.
While Board Chair Adam Seidel said no perfect appointment process exists, he added, “I think in this case, with this timing, the most perfect (and) the least imperfect thing to do is to go with the election results for second place.”
Seidel also supported a special election for the seat in November 2022 but said that given the long period of time until then the board should “go with the public’s interest” and appoint the runner-up in this year’s special election.
“It’s important to me to have as many people as possible voting, so I would support a second-place winner and making a clear statement about that,” Seidel said.
Strehl agreed the appointment method would let voters decide and give them choices, with five candidates running in the current special election.
However, he said, “I think voters have to know exactly what they’re voting for when they go into the voting booth.”
Strehl said he could support the decision as long as the board does everything it can to ensure voters understand it.
After no one seconded his motion to send a flier to every eligible voter in the district about the board’s intent, though, he voted against the appointment strategy.
Boardmember Kim Ross, who had sought unsuccessfully to use the 2020 election results when appointing a temporary replacement for Stoltz, said of the decision to appoint the runner-up in the 2021 special election, “This one’s easy for me because I believe in consistency.”
Ross added, “It’s always been my position that the voice of the community should be the number one criteria that we use and that our process of making this decision is transparent. I don’t believe that was the case with our last appointment, but that’s water under the bridge. And I will say that I’m glad some of my colleagues have come around to that same point of view.”
Ross said she opposed “any extraordinary lengths” beyond the district’s ordinary channels of communication to convey the decision to appoint the runner-up this year since each voter can only select one candidate on the ballot, anyway. She said any other communications efforts, such as running ads, could influence the results of the special election.
Dwivedy agreed the board should not spend additional taxpayer dollars communicating the appointment decision, but he said he did not believe it would change the way people vote.
“I just completely disagree with you all on that,” Strehl responded on the communications issue. “I don’t think that $3,000 to $7,000 is too much to ensure that our voters know what they’re voting for.”
Seidel agreed the board should communicate with voters but said the board’s normal modes of communication along with media coverage and information from candidates would effectively do so. Senior Director of Communications and Community Relations Brett Johnson said the district can include details about the special election in an “Inspiring News” postcard leaders already planned to send to district residents.
“It’s appropriate, too,” Johnson said. “It’s important news for the community.”
Dwivedy worried that some voters might mistakenly vote for two candidates instead of only one, spoiling some ballots. However, Boardmember Karla Bratrud, who the board majority appointed to fill Stoltz’s seat until the special election, said, “We don’t want to not tell people what we decided in the fear that someone might be confused.”
Seidel pointed out the ballot will say in bold letters that voters should vote for one candidate in the special election. He cut off debate over what the postcard should say, saying to Superintendent Josh Swanson, “We’re obviously trusting you with the communication.”
Along with the appointment process vote, the board voted 6-0 to conduct the special election Nov. 8, 2022, to determine who will fill out Fletcher’s term in the future after the appointment ends.
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