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Barnesville: Three vying for spot on board

Three people have filed for seats on the Barnesville School Board. Current board member Tom Ishaug will be joined by newcomers Mike Wheeler and Bob Praska in seeking three seats on the embattled board. The filing deadline for the three four-year ...

Three people have filed for seats on the Barnesville School Board.

Current board member Tom Ishaug will be joined by newcomers Mike Wheeler and Bob Praska in seeking three seats on the embattled board.

The filing deadline for the three four-year positions is 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Voters will decide on the board's make-up during the Nov. 4 general election.

The seats held by Kevin Smith and Ken Bauer also are up for re-election.

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Ishaug and Bauer were appointed to the board May 5 to replace Randy McEvers and Loretta Szweduik, both of whom resigned to settle a lawsuit filed last Sept. 20 against four board members.

In the lawsuit, a group of Barnesville citizens sued the board members, saying they broke the state's open meeting law 37 times and met in secret to plan the firing of Todd Cameron, who was the district's superintendent at the time.

The lawsuit ended April 29 after a $20,000 settlement was reached calling for two board members to resign. McEvers, who wasn't named in the suit, was asked to resign to change the makeup of the board.

In his hand-written resignation letter, McEvers said he was resigning "under protest" due to "unfair negotiation and mediation."

In a typed letter, Szweduik said she resigned with "a heavy heart," adding she did not feel any board members should have resigned.

Cameron now works as the school superintendent in New York Mills, Minn.

Keith Klein, who served as the Pelican Rapids, Minn., superintendent for 25 years, has been hired as the interim superintendent in Barnesville.

In telephone interviews on Thursday, both McEvers and Bauer said they will not run again.

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"I didn't really want to do this in the first place, it wasn't something I solicited," Bauer said of his school board duty.

Instead, Bauer said he has filed to run for mayor of Barnesville.

Szweduik and Kevin Smith did not return calls seeking comment.

Kevin Smith has not been to a school board meeting since he was replaced as board chairman May 5. He missed meetings June 16, July 21 and Aug. 18, district records show.

According to state statute, a board member failing to attend a meeting for 90 days can be replaced.

The 90-day grace period for Kevin Smith is up Sept. 14, the day before the next board meeting.

However, board member Tim Thompson said he didn't think there was interest removing Kevin Smith.

"It's not something I see that would be a value to the district," he said.

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The other board members -- Ellen Smith, Heather Jerald and Jeff Brown -- each have two years left on their terms.

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