NEW ULM - Sharon Gieseke, a school board member elected in 2012, resigned from the District 88 Board of Education on Thursday night, just under a year and a half into her first term.
Gieseke quoted unexpectedly increased commitments to the Minnesota Brain Injury Force she heads, and expressed appreciation of her time, and for her colleagues, on the board.
"I am sorry I have to do this right now - I never thought the Brain Injury Force would take up so much of my time," an emotional Gieseke told the board.
Sharon Gieseke resigned from the District 88 School Board on Thursday.
In written remarks also read at the meeting, Gieseke said that the decision was not made lightly, but in thoughtful consideration.
"I am grateful to everyone who has supported me and encouraged me," she said, in part. "It is not an easy task being on a school board, making decisions and having a part in educating area children. Members of the school board have to devote their time to do their job. I can no longer devote enough of my time to do justice to the school children of this district."
"Since 2012, my duties as the Director of the Minnesota Brain Injury Force have increased to a level where I no longer have enough hours in a day," continued Gieseke. "Minnesota Brain Injury Force has seen an enormous increase in the number of area brain injured/stroke survivors that call and need assistance. Minnesota Brain Injury Force has scheduled over 80 fund raisers, workshops or events in 2014. ... Who do these brain injured/stroke survivors have to help support them for free, besides me?"
"The school board will not have a problem finding someone to replace my position on the board," she continued. "But there are lots of problems finding someone to support area brain injured/stroke survivors. I need to devote more of my time to help support these special survivors."
"I thank God for helping me to be a part of the District 88 Board of Education," she also added. "It has been an experience that I will treasure. I did appreciate my voters' confidence that I would be their voice on the school board, and I do regret disappointing them by resigning."
During her time on the board, Gieseke has been noted for expressing fiscally-conservative, anti-new-tax views and has often voted against the majority.
Under district policy, the remaining board members will appoint someone to serve in her stead, in this case from July 10 until Dec. 31. The seat would then be filled for the remainder of the term at the next general election in November. Gieseke would otherwise have been up for re-election in 2016.
Board members get elected in November but take their seats Jan. 1.
Gieseke's resignation, coupled with the earlier appointment to the board of Christie Dewanz, creates an unusual, perhaps even unprecedented, situation. Five seats will be up for election this fall, rather than the usual three. Dewanz was appointed in place of Jill Hulke who proved ineligible to serve because she ran and was elected in 2012 from an address outside the school district.
After accepting Gieseke's resignation, the board quickly announced Thursday it is seeking interested candidates to temporarily fill the position. It asked candidates to stop in at the superintendent's office before July 1 to indicate their desire to be considered.
A candidate applying for this appointment must be an eligible voter, 21 or older on assuming office, and must have been a resident of the district for at least 30 days before the appointment. Each candidate will be asked to complete a form to provide background information for the board. A three-member board committee will review the applications, if necessary set up interviews, and make a recommendation to the full board at the July 10 board study session.
During its study session Thursday, the school board also discussed the next steps in informing the public about an upcoming referendum to raise funds for a new high school and remodeling existing schools. The referendum will be on Aug. 12.
The board also heard an update from Food Service Director Jackie LeMay, who discussed changes in the food service program over the past year and reported an apparently successful start to a new summer lunch program. LeMay noted that during the first week of offering free lunch to youth under the age of 18 this summer (a program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture), between 143 and 223 children daily participated in the program.
The board also discussed a self-evaluation checklist and a checklist providing an informal evaluation of the superintendent. In general, the feedback generated by both forms was positive, with the board also discussing what areas need work.