D51 seat to be filled swiftly, president says

The District 51 School Board may have a fifth member by the end of the week or early next week.

That’s the timeline Board President Greg Mikolai said Wednesday he has tentatively set for himself to pick the board’s newest member.

In accordance with state statute, Mikolai has become the sole decision-maker when it comes to picking a person to replace the late Harry Butler in the board’s District C seat. The four remaining board members were unable to reach a majority vote at a special meeting Tuesday that was convened to interview six candidates for the position and hopefully pick one. The deadline for the board to reach a majority vote and pick a new member was Wednesday, 60 days after Butler’s death.

Title 22, Article 31, Section 129 of the Colorado Revised Statutes reads, “If the appointment is not made by the board within the sixty-day period, the president of the board shall forthwith appoint a person to fill the vacancy.” Statutes do not say how long Mikolai can take to make his decision or how he needs to arrive at his decision. Denver-based media attorney Steve Zansberg told the Daily Sentinel via email Wednesday Mikolai does not have to deliberate in public.

Mikolai said he plans to call all six candidates interviewed by the board Tuesday and re-interview them. Mikolai said District 51 attorney David Price told him he could pick any eligible person in District C for the seat, but he wants to stick with the people who showed interest in the appointment. A seventh candidate, Heidi Hoffman, also applied for the position but Mikolai said he would not consider her because she was unavailable for Tuesday’s interview forum.

“I don’t think that would be fair to the candidates who were there,” Mikolai said.

Mikolai said he plans to call the candidate he chooses and schedule a time for that person to be sworn in as soon as possible. He said he hopes the rest of the board will be there for the swearing in, but he’s not sure if that will happen.

“I’m not kidding myself. I think we’re going to have two unhappy people. And I don’t necessarily mean (board members) Ann (Tisue) and Jeff (Leany),” Mikolai said.

Tisue and Leany voted for candidates Pat Kanda and then Art Gardner Tuesday in votes that ended 2-2 with Mikolai and Board Vice President Leslie Kiesler dissenting. Leany tried to get members to vote on candidate Rick Langley, who Mikolai said he would support, but Leany could not get a “second” on the motion. Mikolai said it is not appropriate for board presidents to second motions.

Kiesler also tried to get the board to vote on candidate John Williams, who Mikolai said he also liked, but Kiesler could not get a “second” on the motion to vote from Leany or Tisue.

Mikolai said he plans to base his decision on numerous points, including who he thinks has a generally positive attitude toward teachers, who believes the district has improved its test scores in recent years, and who believes the board exists to set policy, not “micromanage” district staff.

Zansberg said he has never heard of a board president having to make this decision alone on a vacancy. The filling of a vacancy is the only place in state statutes where a board president is given that power, Mikolai said.

“I think this is only in statute because it’s the only time you can obviously get a 2-2 vote,” he said.


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How does one person deliberate in public?  Do we all sit there and watch him think?

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