School issues come into focus

Special meeting Wednesday to address superintendent search, will also include collaboration talks with 2142 representatives

by Tom Coombe -

The Ely School Board holds a regular meeting Monday, but a special session set for two nights later may cast more light on the future of the district.
That’s when members will gather to address two key issues - the search for a new superintendent and potential collaboration with neighboring St. Louis County School District 2142.
The meeting, which is to include discussion with some 2142 representatives, is slated for 6 p.m. at the high school.
In late-May, school board members voted to repost the district’s part-time superintendent position, after deciding not to move forward with any of four finalists who interviewed for the post earlier in the month.
At the time, board chairman Ray Marsnik pressed for the group to interview another unidentified candidate who failed to advance past the screening process when the four finalists were selected.
That candidate, believed to be a former Iron Range principal familiar with the Ely area, does not have a superintendent’s license but has “a pathway” to get one by the fall, according to Marsnik.
Board members seemed interested in interviewing the candidate but decided to repost the job to give others the same opportunity to apply and be considered.
The board is looking for a superintendent to replace Kevin Abrahamson, who said he would leave the district after four years on the job. His contract expires at the end of the month.
The superintendent search has been linked to a pair of other ongoing efforts, including possible collaboration with 2142 and the quest for outside funding to pay for part of a proposed school building project.
Marsnik has been supportive of a plan floated by lobbyists Gary Cervenik and Jeff Anderson and county commissioner Paul McDonald, in which the district would share a superintendent with 2142.
The move would be part of an effort to show area legislators that the district is collaborating with other districts and would qualify for Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board funding.
Some supporters have speculated that the IRRRB could offset part of the costs of a building project that could run as high as $17 million.
The plan has had a decidedly mixed reaction on the school campus, with staff members pushing back against plans to share a superintendent and several board members also showing reluctance.
Opponents have pushed for the Ely district to perhaps pursue other areas of collaboration with 2142, and Wednesday’s meeting could offer more details.
To date, Marsnik and Abrahamson have spoken informally with 2142 leadershp and the upcoming meeting is the first formal session involving board members from both districts.
Ely currently does collaborate in some areas with 2142, including several cooperative sports programs and the sharing of a German language teacher.