A.L. school board chooses newest member

Published 8:18 pm Monday, October 10, 2011

After interviewing six candidates, the Albert Lea school board appointed a new member to assist in governing the district.

Kim Nelson

On a 4-0 vote, Kim Nelson, executive director of The Children’s Center, was chosen after deliberations. Board Vice Chairwoman Linda Laurie made a motion to elect Nelson and board member Jeshua Erickson seconded it. The Children’s Center provides child care and preschool services in Albert Lea.

“I was very excited and a little humbled because what I know of the other five candidates were that they were really strong and would be good board members,” Nelson said. “I’m just excited about the opportunity to serve the community and district.”

The other board members voting were Jill Marin and Mark Ciota. During the discussion, board members mentioned the high caliber of the other candidates.

The five other candidates interviewed were Jenny Edwin, Christian education director at First Lutheran Church; Paul Carstens, a career counselor who’s currently laid off; Julie Johnson, vice president at Clarks Grove State Bank; Chad Severtson, operations manager at Pro Trucking; and Ed Mikulich, a retired teacher.

Paul Carstens

Board chairman Bill Leland spoke about the strengths of each candidate during the discussion after the interviews but also said Nelson’s experience and perspective stood out for him.

In the discussion, board members showed interest in Johnson, too.

All candidates were asked the same questions including:

• Tell us about yourself and why you are interested in becoming a school board member.

• Have you had the chance to read any books or articles about best practices with respect to school board governance? If yes, what’s one example of an insight you’ve gained. If no, what do you feel might be the value of studying school board governance best practices in the future?

Julie Johnson

• Tell us four to five qualities of a good school board member.

• Tell me why you are on the governance-versus-management spectrum and why.

• If it was within your power to make any change in the district tomorrow what would that change be and why?

• What type of commitment can the school board, students, school staff and the district’s constituents expect from you?

Nelson told the board she’s been an Albert Lea resident for 19 years, where she lives with her husband, Jeff, and two children. She has a two-year degree in early childhood education and has been at The Children’s Center for five years after relocating from a childcare center in Austin.

Ed Mikulich

“Education is such a huge part of a community and all of us so I thought this is just the next step in what I believe is a good school district,” Nelson said.

She said she has experience dealing with board governance and said a board should have policies and procedures set and then hold administrators responsible instead of being too involved in day-to-day operations. Nelson said those who know her know that she’s busy but that she’s cleared her schedule to commit to the board.

“I know there are monthly meetings, but I would be able to commit to different committees or being a spokesperson when needed,” Nelson said.

Jenny Edwin

With her career in early childhood education, Nelson said she’ll bring a new perspective to the board and will be an advocate for getting children prepared for school before kindergarten. She will likely be sworn in at the next meeting, Oct. 24, Superintendent Mike Funk said.

The term for Nelson’s seat ends Dec. 31, 2012. The seat was vacated by former board Vice Chairwoman Sally Ehrhardt, who resigned in July citing personal reasons.

The interviews were open to the public during the special school board meeting at 5 p.m. Monday. Including the candidates and board members, 22 people were present. Though the meeting was open to the public, Leland asked candidates to respect each other and not be present during the other interviews or the board discussion.

Chad Severtson

“It takes a lot to put yourself through something like this, so I really commend all the candidates,” Leland said. “We had high-quality candidates.”

While six people sought the appointment this fall, two candidates for school board seeking to fill vacant seats went without challengers in the November 2010 general election.