Tom Burns voted in as newest school board memberTwo Harbors resident Tom Burns will take over the rest of former school board member Kathy Ruberg’s term. Ruberg represented Wards 3 and 4 in Two Harbors until she moved to Duluth in January. She was elected in November of 2010 and would have served until 2014.
Meet Lake Superior School District’s newest school board member: Tom Burns.
Burns will take over the rest of former school board member Kathy Ruberg’s term. Ruberg represented Wards 3 and 4 in Two Harbors until she moved to Duluth in January. She was elected in November of 2010 and would have served until 2014.
School board member Cyndi Ryder said she thought Burns would bring a new perspective to the table.
“We don’t currently have members who have kids in the school district. Tom has kids in the school right now, and he’s been in the PTA for years,” she said the day after the board voted to approve Burns as its newest member.
School board members questioned Burns about his background and his current employment during a special school board meeting Monday. Burns is originally from the Minneapolis area but moved to Two Harbors in 1989. He has been a registered nurse for more than 30 years. While most of those years were spent in emergency rooms and intensive care units, Burns now works as a nurse in the school district every Tuesday at Two Harbors High School and an additional two hours on Wednesdays at either Minnehaha Elementary or THHS.
Concern was raised over how Burns would handle being a school board member and a school district employee. State statute says that in order to be eligible to serve on the school board, school district employees must not earn above $8,000 in a fiscal year. Burns meets that requirement and is not a union employee. According to school superintendent Phil Minkkinen, employees must work at least 14 hours a week in order to be considered as working in a union position.
“That was the lion’s share of my concern was the niche you filled within a contract unit,” said school board member and clerk Leo Babeu.
Burns said that if he was appointed to the board, he believed that there was a time and a place for others to voice their concerns. “When I’m working in the nurse’s office, I’m a nurse and that’s my job. If I get appointed to the school board and you want to talk to me about school board issues, then talk to me about it after school or call me at home or come to a school board meeting. I’m more than willing to talk to you about it then,” he said.
Burns said after he became aware of opening on the school board, he was initially unsure. But after he approached by a couple of people, he wrote a letter of interest and found out he was the only one who had expressed interest in the board position.
“It’s an important job. I wouldn’t take it lightly and it’s serious business. I wouldn’t be sitting here today if I didn’t think so,” said Burns.
The school board voted to approve Burns as the newest school board member almost unanimously. School board member and treasurer Carol Youngberg was the only one to vote against Burns. Youngberg said she knew he met state statute requirements could still serve on the board, but could not rest on the idea that he worked for the district, even on a very limited level.
“To me, it’s still a conflict of interest because you’re still working for the district,” she said the day after the meeting.
Burns’ first official school board meeting was yesterday.