Board considers adding an election district

by Jim Boyle

The Elk River Area School Board will consider adding an election district once the city and county have finished drawing their new wards and districts.

Right now the district has two election districts and the rest of the seats are decided by an at-large vote. The election districts were added after a citizen got a petition circulated to force the question onto a ballot question for District 728 voters.

Voters supported the notion of election districts, but the School Board at the time did not. Given the discretion to pick anywhere from two to seven election districts, they chose to go with the fewest after the vote of the public.

With the recent census and re-drawing of congressional, legislative, county districts and city wards, the Elk River Area School District must alert the state if they have any intentions of changing the number of election districts.

The Elk River Area School Board took the matter up at its March 5 work session, and there was some discussion about whether to leave things as is or to add one or more districts.

No one has suggested seven districts, but it has been suggested three or four districts could be considered.

Londa Chambers, Superintendent Mark Bezek’s senior secretary, said the Minnesota School Boards Association advises against dividing into districts for fear of creating dysfunction.

She said there are only 14 districts in the state with election districts, including Elk River.

“If you find it doesn’t work, it takes legislative action to (dissolve the election districts).”

Janelle Henry, the most senior board member, said the election districts were sought when there was a great deal of divisiveness in the school district. She said she and Laurie Kerr also sought to have the school district divided into individual wards.

And now?

“It’s not so divisive,” she said. “From what Londa  has said, I would favor staying away from wards.”

Board members talked about what would happen if a particular district didn’t have at least one willing a capable board candidate.

“I would be terrified of not getting someone to run in (one of the wards),” said Holly Thompson, calling for generating the greatest number of committed and qualified people.

Sue Farber and Shane Steinbrecher talked about waiting to see what the lines look like and considering a third district. They suspect the northern district will grow in acreage, as the south has grown the most population wise.

School board members agreed to give the issue another look once the city and county have redrawn their lines.