The results are in, and incumbents Leslee Boyd, Jim Gelbmann and Ron Kath have won the District 833 School Board race.
All three easily outpaced their challengers, with Kath notching the highest vote total (2,127), followed by Gelbmann (2,036) and Boyd (1,964).
The rest of the field included Katie Schwartz (1,501), Joe Ryan (1,471), Lezlie Schriver (852) and Steve Lagoon (572).
The results are not official until they have been certified by the Secretary of State’s office.
Kath, of Cottage Grove, was re-elected to his third term on the school board.
“Out of the seven candidates, I don’t think there was a bad candidate or a bad choice out there, so I’m very humbled that they gave me the opportunity for another term,” he said. “I’m really excited and look forward to the next four years—we have some budget issues that we’ll be working through but nothing I don’t think we can solve.”
He said one of the biggest challenges will be the upcoming levy renewals.
“I don’t know about any incremental funding, if we’re going to go for that, but we definitely need the referendum renewals,” he said. “We’re continuing to inform the public of the good job that the district’s doing, being good stewards of the dollars that they’ve given us.”
Kath said the re-election of all three incumbents makes him optimistic about the chances of a levy renewal.
“That sends a powerful message to me that the community is feeling pretty good about the progress we’ve made, so hopefully that means they’ll be supportive come renewal time,” he said.
Kath said the board is focused on completing teacher negotiations “aligning on next year’s budget.”
“We’re in deficit spending for the last few years, and we don’t have a fund balance anymore, we don’t have that safety blanket to fall back on,” he said. “So that’s really the first order of business, to shore up that deficit spending and make sure we keep this district on solid financial ground.”
Gelbmann, of Woodbury, said he was honored to have won the voters’ support and was pleased they ignored a “partisan element” that crept into the race. (The District 57 GOP supported Boyd, Kath and challenger Ryan.)
Area residents put the performance of the board and the incumbency of the three winners “ahead of partisan politics,” said Gelbmann, who added that he gets along well with Boyd and Kath.
Gelbmann went on to thank those who did vote for him, and said he would work to win over those who didn’t.
Gelbmann secured a spot on the school board for the fifth and final time. When he first ran in 1995 he said he would only serve in the board while he had children in area schools—that will no longer be true in four years when his youngest graduates from Woodbury High School.
The big challenge ahead, Gelbmann said, is securing the funding needed “to provide our kids with a world-class education.”
“They’re going to need to compete in a much more competitive global economy,” he said. “The state is refusing to give us adequate funding for education.”
Gelmbann also said that the Spanish immersion issue has been decided and that the board would likely not be pursuing it further.
“The only reason that was an issue during the campaign is that one candidate (Joe Ryan) ran on that issue,” he said.
Leslee Boyd, of Woodbury, was re-elected to her second term.
“It’s been a good campaign, and we had a lot of really good candidates,” she said. “I’m just pleased that we have a lot of people who took an interest in education.”
She said a challenge the board faces is how to continue to meet students’ educational needs “within the budgetary constraints that we have.”
“We’ve been deficit spending, and we have to fix that in this next go around,” she said. “We have some budget reforms that we’re going to be looking at, so I hope that those reforms will address some of our problems, and I also hope that we can continue to work with the legislature to equalize funding so property owners in our district don’t have to pay more than property owners in other districts for the same education.
Boyd said she was pleased that she was among the wave of incumbents re-elected.
“Beginning in January we will start right away with budget and staffing ratios so having an experienced board will make it easier,” she said. “We know what the financial picture looks like.”
While she was supported by the District 57 GOP, she said she didn’t think partisan politics played a large role in the race.
“I think that the people in our district are concerned about candidates’ views,” she said, “and I hope that they’re choosing the candidate that most closely aligns with their views regardless of party politics.”
In the next four years, Boyd said she hopes to implement a “more uniform evaluation process for all staff.”
“I think that knowing what some of our teachers are doing well can benefit others,” she said, “and knowing how to improve helps teachers get better and also helps us know more about what type of development we can provide to help them with their jobs.”
Schwartz said the election went as she expected.
“It’s hard to go up against incumbents,” she said.
The St. Paul Park resident said they have a built-in advantage on their understanding of the issues, but Schwartz also saw Tuesday night’s results as a jumping off point.
Schwartz said she will run for school board again and plans to get out in the district’s larger cities more during the next election.
Lagoon congratulated the winners and those who lost the race. He said he got a reputation for being conservative “and it seems that that continues to dog me.”
Lagoon, a Cottage Grove resident, said he was surprised at the time and financial commitment it takes to run for office.
“You think of it as a local school board race, but it’s a major district,” he said.
Lagoon said he doesn’t see himself running for office again anytime soon.
“The voters have spoken, and I heard them loud and clear,” he said.
Like Schwartz, Schriver said she plans to make another run at the District 833 School Board in two years.
Schriver said the race was a good experience for her family, which helped in the campaign effort. She congratulated the winners and added that it would have been a surprise if she had been able to overtake the incumbents.
Ryan could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday night.