In November the current chair of the ISD 194 (Lakeville) School Board, Zach Duckworth, was elected to the Minnesota Senate representing Senate District 58. Senator-elect Duckworth has notified the Board of his intent to resign his school board seat effective January 4, 2021. Pursuant to state law, the Board will be required to call a special election to fill the vacancy to be held no later than November 2, 2021, the date of the next municipal and school district general election.
The Board discussed the process of calling a special election at its work session on November 17 (relevant video begins at 1:53:23). Memoranda provided to the Board by ISD 194 staff state that the Board is not required to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until a special election can be held. However, Minn. Stat. § 123B.09, subd. 5b, states that "[a]ny vacancy on the board, other than a vacancy described in subdivision 4, must be filled by board appointment at a regular or special meeting." The statute does not say how quickly a school board must fill a vacancy by appointment but the statute does envision a process whereby someone is appointed to fill the time period between when a vacancy occurs and when a special election is held.
Gary Lee, Deputy Executive Director of the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA), stated in a newsletter published in February 2019 that under similar circumstances "[t]he statute requires that the vacancy be filled by school board appointment until a special election is held in the current year. The appointment process is not defined in statute, so the school board can determine the best process." The Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State's 2020 School District Election Guide likewise states on page 61 that "[a]ny vacancy on a school board, other than a vacancy noted in M.S. 123B.09, subd. 4 (ill or absent member), must be filled by board appointment at a regular or special meeting. The appointment shall be in the form of a resolution entered in the minutes and shall be effective 30 days following adoption of the resolution, subject to M.S. 123B.09, subd. 5b(b) (petition to reject is filed). If the appointment becomes effective, it shall continue until a special election is held."
The Board has not established a process for filing the vacancy or adopted a resolution calling a special election. The Board may call a special election to be held on April 13, May 11, August 10, or November 2, 2021. During its November 17 work session the Board discussed possibly combining the special election to fill the Board vacancy with a proposed bond referendum. The candidate ultimately elected during a special election will serve the remainder of the term of the vacated seat, which ends on January 2, 2023. More information is available via this Sun Thisweek article.