For the second time, the Stillwater school board appears ready to offer longtime district employee Malinda Lansfeldt a one-year term as superintendent after a 5-2 vote on Thursday to enter into negotiations with her.

Lansfeldt, who took the one-year job of interim superintendent in July following the firing of Denise Pontrelli, has six months remaining on her existing contract. The new contract would start in July of next year.

Board Chairwoman Sarah Stivland, in her last regularly scheduled board meeting after losing in the November election, said she'd like to see the contract approved at a Dec. 23 special board meeting.

The board was expecting to vote on a three-year contract for Lansfeldt at Thursday's meeting, but after sustained pushback from incoming board members and members of the public, the item was pulled from the agenda. The idea of offering Lansfeldt the new contract was raised earlier this month when Stivland said she was happy with Lansfeldt's performance and wanted to see her hired longer-term.

New board members, including Beverly Petrie and Alison Sherman, said it wasn't appropriate for the lame duck board to make that call, and wanted to see a candidate search that included time for public comment.

Former school board member Mark Burns, speaking during the Dec. 3 public comment period, made a direct appeal to Lansfeldt to turn down any offer from this board, saying it was a test of her character.

Lansfeldt, speaking Thursday night, said she was "honored and humbled" to be considered for a three-year contract, but that she declined to negotiate for one. Citing the pandemic, the need for the district to focus on an expiring $12 million levy and the possibility of a bond referendum in the coming year, Lansfeldt said it was time to come together.

"We need to have a strong focus on listening to each other," she said.

The Stillwater school board has been in a state of turmoil this year, with two members resigning and a third choosing not to run for a new term, as fallout continues from a controversial 2017 school closings plan that shuttered three schools north of Hwy. 36.

The closure stirred feelings of betrayal and mistrust among residents in the district's north, some of whom have since left the district to create a charter school in one of the shuttered buildings. Pontrelli, the superintendent who created the plan, was ousted this year, along with her top lieutenant.

Lansfeldt, who served as principal at several district schools including those that were closed in 2017, became interim superintendent on July 2.

Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329