Change comes to Minneapolis school board

  • Article by: SUZANNE ZIEGLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 5, 2008 - 5:57 AM

DFL-endorsed candidates Bates, Davis and Lee leading in early returns, with possible ouster of Henry-Blythe.

Minneapolis voters Tuesday approved a plan to enlarge the school board and shift to geographic districts instead of citywide elections.

And in the race for school board, the longest-serving member of the board was ousted. Sharon Henry-Blythe, who was seeking her third term, finished fourth out of the six candidates who were vying for three seats.

The top vote-getters with 100 percent of the vote counted were Lydia Lee, 60, south Minneapolis, the current school board chairwoman who was seeking her second term, finished first with 61,623 votes. Jill Davis, 47, northeast Minneapolis, was second with 58,998 followed by Carla Bates, 46, of south Minneapolis, with 54,691.

Henry-Blythe came in a distant fourth with 39,476 votes. Kari Reed grabbed 33,118 votes while Doug Mann picked up 28,416.

Voters have picked the DFL-endorsed candidates in the past: Only three of the 24 candidates sworn in for board seats in the past 22 years did not receive the DFL nod when they first won their seat. Henry-Blythe, 53, south Minneapolis, is a Democrat but did not seek endorsements.

The school board now has seven members, all elected at large from the entire district. The new plan board will expand from six to nine members, with six of those members to be elected from districts that correspond with the current Minneapolis park board districts. The remaining three board members would be at large. That measure passed 104,283 to 54,042.

Supporters argued that it would guarantee representation from every part of the city and give parents just one point person to contact. Opponents said it would balkanize the board into factions with local, rather than citywide, concerns, could lead to political deal-making on budgets and school closings, and might diminish minority representation. Voters rejected a similar proposal in 1987.

In the past a disproportionate share of board seats have gone to candidates from southwest Minneapolis. That area has historically had greater community involvement and more residents with professional backgrounds. The current board is among the most racially and geographically diverse boards in the district's history, with four minorities and two North Siders. Davis will be the first board member from northeast Minneapolis in many years.

The new configuration will start in 2010, when four board members would be elected from three districts, and one would be at large.

Suzanne Ziegler • 612-673-1707

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