The Pine River-Backus School Board is recommending Leslie Bouchonville, mother of three PR-B graduates and executive director of the Pine River-Backus Family Center, be appointed to the vacant board seat.
The board interviewed five candidates for the position on Tuesday, Jan. 29: Chas Norman of Backus, Jason Marcum of Pine River, Ann Sweeney of Backus, Jerry Peterson of Pine River and Bouchonville of Pine River.
Stephanie Wynn of Pine River was also a candidate; however, she was unable to attend the meeting because of illness. Her absence did not disqualify her for the position.
All candidates were asked the same two questions. The main question was, “Why are you interested in this open position on the board?”
Norman’s answer focused on curriculum that would attract young people to the PR-B educational system and community. Marcum expressed an interest in increasing internship programs with local companies such as Hunt Utilities Group. Sweeney brought up the use of student feedback to assess the school’s strengths and weaknesses. Peterson emphasized the importance of more job training. Bouchonville also focused on the importance of preparing students to apply and work in the future, but emphasized that such training doesn’t need to be focused on local employers.
Board member Chris Cunningham suggested that immediately voting for one candidate out of the six might be a difficult choice because of personal familiarity. After introductions and a brief interview, the six candidates were reduced to four by popular vote, and then again to just two candidates.
In the end, the board chose to recommend Bouchonville by a majority vote of four. This decision is currently just a recommendation. The appointment will not be finalized until the board meets again Feb. 11.
The school board position became vacant when former board member John Palmer resigned his seat in early November. The school board in December appointed Peterson, a board member at that time who didn’t win re-election in November, to the position.
However, in early January the board rescinded that appointment after learning it violated Minnesota state statute for officers to fill a vacancy if the officer had “the power to make the appointment.” Peterson abstained from the vote to appoint himself.
After rescinding Peterson’s appointment in January, the board decided to move forward with a process that opened the position to the public.