School election draws a crowd

Four seats, nine candidates as incumbents jump in at the end

by Tom Coombe
A flurry of final-day filings, including three by incumbents, make for the most competitive school board elections in Ely in nearly a decade.
Longtime chairman Ray Marsnik and fellow board members Rochelle Sjoberg and Tony Colarich all beat Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline and entered the race.
Marsnik, who has been chairman for a decade-and-a-half and on the board for 20 years, filed for a two-year seat up for grabs and will face Anthony Bermel in the Nov. 8 election.
Sjoberg, Colarich and incumbent Chad Davis are all on the ballot in the race for three four-year positions on the board, and they’ll be joined on the ballot by Jeremy Engen, Claire High, Mike Scherbing and Jennifer Westlund.
The top three vote-getters in that race will win seats for four years.
The election is in sharp contrast to recent school board races, which have been relatively quiet affiars. In 2020, there were four candidates for three positions while the 2018 election had just three contenders for three seats.
In 2014, the district had nine candidates for three seats.
A two-week filing period started last week and ran through Tuesday, and the filing by the incumbents included some reshuffling.
The positions now held by Marsnik, Sjoberg and Colarich are up for four-year terms, but Marsnik opted to enter the contest for the two-year position.
Davis was appointed to that seat earlier this year after the resignation of Darren Visser, and procedure calls for that position to be on the ballot for the remainder of the term originally won by Visser in 2020.
Marsnik entered the contest for that position, while Davis is pursuing one of the four-year spots.
The heightened interest in the school board positions comes as a $20 million-plus renovation project on the campus, an initiative spurred by voter approval of a referendum two years ago, heads toward completion amid both construction delays and cost overruns.
The district also faced considerable discord during the 2021-22 school year, including a mask mandate that generated significant public pushback, a sharp drop in student enrollment, and the midyear resignation of former superintendent Erik Erie.