The Duluth School Board selected a Piedmont Heights resident to fill the vacant At Large position Monday night.
Kelly Durick Eder, an assistant professor of biology at the College of St. Scholastica and mother of Piedmont Elementary School students, received a majority vote after two ballots.
“I’m really excited to work as a team with the School Board and we have some big work to do in terms of thinking about the budget, the redistricting and then finding a new superintendent,” Durick Eder said. “I hope to be a meaningful member and contribute to those challenges.”
Board members Alanna Oswald, Sally Trnka, Nora Sandstad and Jill Lofald cast their votes for Durick Eder. Board member Rosie Loeffler-Kemp voted for Karen St. George both times and member David Kirby voted for Jeanne Nelson both times. Sandstad voted for Dani Dunphy in the first round but changed her vote in the second round to give Durick Eder a majority.
The board unanimously passed a resolution to appoint Durick Eder after the second round of ballots.
Durick Eder was the third person to interview Monday night. During her interview, she said she heard from teachers that the biggest issue they face is the spectrum of need that they see in the classroom.
“You have students that are facing all kinds of needs, and it’s not just the education piece, but there is also the mental health piece,” she said. “We need to support our students' mental health and I think early intervention is key.”
During the interview process, all candidates were asked what their experience was in advancing equity and inclusion. Durick Eder said she has professional experience in the matter.
“I think that it is important that when people share their experiences with you that you believe them and listen to them with the ear of your heart,” she said.
Durick Eder’s appointment will be official Oct. 31 unless a valid petition to reject the appointee is filed with the school district clerk pursuant to Minnesota Statute. If no such petition is filed, Durick Eder will hold the position through 2020. A special election for the seat will be held in November 2020 to fill out the remainder of the term, which expires in January 2022. Durick Eder can run for the seat next year.
“I’m excited by the background and skillset Durick Eder brings to our board,” said Chairperson Rosie Loeffler-Kemp. “She expressed knowledge and familiarity with our school district and issues that impact public education. We look forward to working with her as she joins the board.”
The board spent three hours interviewing 17 candidates for the vacant seat left open by the Sept. 4 resignation of Josh Gorham. Twenty-one people applied for the vacant seat, but three withdrew their applications — Chris Obije, Janelle Sonderlind and Kyle Westrick — before the interviews and one person, Brenda Windsor, did not show up for her interview slot Monday night.
After interviews, the School Board took 15 minutes to rank their top five with the numbers 1-5, giving the rest of the candidates the number six. Those rankings were given to CFO Cathy Erickson and tabulated in a spreadsheet. The seven candidates with the lowest totals were pulled for consideration for the appointment.
The candidates were Durick Eder with 15 points, Jeanne Nelson with 20 points, Amber Sadowski with 23 points, Dani Dunphy with 24 points, Greg Gilbert with 30 points, Karen St. George with 30 points and Thomas Jovanovich with 30 points.
Oswald, Trnka and Lofald ranked Durick Eder as their No. 1 candidate. Loeffler-Kemp and Kirby ranked St. George and Sean Moore as No. 1, respectively.