Incumbents prevail in School District 191

The four incumbents were returned to the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School Board Tuesday in a crowded 10-way race.

The incumbents survived despite a year of controversy over the $255,000 buyout of Tania Chance, the district’s controversial ex-human resources director, who resigned in February under a separation agreement that paid her for not working the last 18 months of her two-year contract.

Board Chair Ron Hill, first elected in 1999, said he went into the election thinking at least one of the incumbents might not survive the controversy.

“The community knew it was a tough go over the last 12 months for the board,” Hill said.

But the emergence of other big issues appears to have trumped public dissent over the buyout, he said. The district has adopted a new strategic plan and is wading into difficult issues of educational equity and use of school buildings.

“They were standing behind the (board’s) direction,” Hill said of voters.

One-term incumbent Sandra Sweep was the top vote-getter in a seven-way race for three, four-year seats. Sweep got 18.9 percent of the vote, followed by Hill (16.1 percent) and one-term incumbent DeeDee Currier (15.5 percent).

In a three-way race for a two-year seat, Robert VandenBoom, a board appointee, was returned with 36.6 percent of the vote.

“We’ve tried to move forward” from the board-approved Chance buyout, Sweep said. “We weren’t in control of that situation, but we tried to handle it the best way we could. I stand by the decision we made, but there was no good decision.”

Educational equity — correcting school-by-school imbalances in student diversity and income status — is a pressing issue, Hill and Sweep agreed.

“The face of the district will be changing,” said Sweep, who was endorsed by the Burnsville Education Association and the Burnsville Athletic Club. “It has to. We have great curriculum, we have great teachers, but we don’t have equity among our buildings, and that trickles down to the students sitting in the desks.”

Trailers in the race for four-year terms were Steve Dove (13.8 percent), Mark “MR. TEAK” Traikoff (13.1 percent), Mark Korman (11.1 percent) and Seema Pothini (11 percent).

Trailers in the race for the two-year term were Joshua Mathews (32.3 percent) and Tom McCasey (30.3 percent).