Incumbents prevailed Tuesday in a contentious Minnetonka school board race that for the first time saw a group of challengers take aim at Superintendent Dennis Peterson’s aggressive open enrollment practices.
The three members — Lisa Wagner, Katie Becker and Mark Ambrosen — benefited from an extraordinary push by Peterson and the district to protect the status quo.
Unofficial results also showed Christine Ritchie, a proponent of the district’s language immersion programming who last month on Nextdoor.com countered a parent’s alarm about kids being taught in a school’s vestibule with the opinion it was a “great use of space,” capturing the fourth open seat.
The 11-candidate race was a sharp contrast to a 2015 election in which voters backed new funding for schools and only four candidates ran for four school board seats.
Since then, the district has continued to enroll more students than it was projecting to have — the outcome of a strategy in which it recruits students from outside the district to help fill classrooms and adds personnel to rooms that exceed class-size targets.
This fall, four challengers ran as “4TONKA” in an effort to rein in open enrollment and also fight for greater transparency in district decisionmaking. Trevor Thurling, a banker and 4TONKA candidate, said he was relieved to see the election end.
“I want to move past the division this has caused our community,” he said Tuesday.
In St. Paul, school board incumbents Zuki Ellis and Steve Marchese were comfortably ahead in near-final returns, as were Black Lives Matter activist Chauntyll Allen and parent-activist Jessica Kopp, in the race to fill four seats.