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Pine River-Backus School Board appoints a new member, elects a new chair.

The Pine River-Backus School Board on Monday, Feb. 11, unanimously appointed Leslie Bouchonville to the vacant board seat. The board then elected Sandy Poferl as chair for 2013 on a split vote.

These decisions concluded two difficult choices in the making since January.

Monday, resident Darren Sonenstahl and others suggested the public should have appointed the new board member.

“I would like to see you decide not to fill the vacancy tonight and actually open it up to an election by the people,” Sonenstahl said. “Nothing against the person you are picking or anything, it would just be nice for the public to be able to choose who they want to represent themselves.”

The board discussed this suggestion, but ultimately dismissed it.

Board member Chris Cunningham nominated Poferl as chair, while Jim Coffland nominated Barb Beck. Poferl won the election with four votes — from Garny Gaffey, Poferl, Cunningham and Bouchonville. Beck received three votes from Coffland, Katy Botz and Beck.

In early January, the board rescinded the appointment of Jerry Peterson to the open board seat after learning it violated Minnesota state statute for officers to fill a vacancy if the officer had “the power to make the appointment,” even though Peterson abstained from the vote made in December. Peterson was a board member at that time; he was not re-elected in November.

A board seat became vacant when John Palmer resigned in early November.

Jan. 29, the school board interviewed five candidates who applied for the position: Chas Norman of Backus, Jason Marcum of Pine River, Ann Sweeney of Backus, Peterson of Pine River and Bouchonville of Pine River. Stephanie Wynn of Pine River was also considered, but she was unable to attend that meeting.

Bouchonville was recommended for the position Jan. 29 on a 4-2 vote.

The board also unsuccessfully attempted to elect a chair in early January. Without a seventh member, the vote was deadlocked 3-3. The appointment of a seventh board member ended that deadlock.

In other business Monday, the board approved the resignation of six long-term school employees and the discharge of a seventh.

Resignations were submitted by paraprofessional Julie Cline, elementary teacher Lee Aimers, elementary teacher Sally Jones, ALC teacher Trudy Jurchen, teacher and activities director Randy Schwegel, and elementary principal Jackie Bruns. These resignations are effective at the end of the 2012-13 school year. Immediate discharge of Roxanne Sawyer was also approved.

Board members each voiced their appreciation of the resigning employees.

Poferl said, “Being on the board, that’s been the hardest thing to do is to see the wonderful people and the experience they have leave us. We are very fortunate.”