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Two classroom educators are the first candidates to file for November's state school board election, which remains tenuously defined in state law after a judge's 2014 ruling.
Scott Neilson, a high school teacher in the Nebo School District, has filed to run for the board's District 13 seat, currently held by technology lobbyist Stan Lockhart.
And Granite School District elementary teacher Kathleen Riebe has filed to run for the board's District 10 seat, currently held by software engineer and board Chairman David Crandall. Lockhart and Crandall have not indicated whether they will seek to remain on the board.
"We need to support our teachers, and we need to support the educational process," Riebe said. "As I looked at the credentials of some of the people on the board, there's not a lot of education background."
Eight of the school board's 15 seats are up for election this year, according to Mark Thomas, elections director for the Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office.
The filing deadline for candidates is March 17, a date Thomas said was selected by the elections office due to a lack of direction from state law.
"The statute actually doesn't have a deadline," Thomas said, "but since there's not one, we put one in rule that says it's March 17 unless the Legislature indicates otherwise."
The school board election has been a looming question mark since September 2014, when U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups found the state's process to be unconstitutional.
That process relies on a nominating committee, which screens applicants before sending finalists' names to the governor, who then places two candidates per seat on the general election ballot.
Lawmakers failed to replace the embattled law in 2015, and in November, Gov. Gary Herbert announced he would not convene a nominating committee for the 2016 election.
State elections managers reviewed the existing statute, Thomas said, but found no legal method for narrowing the potential candidate pool, which included 70 individuals in 2014.
"There's nothing that gives any sort of clear guidance on what to do, and so we're just left with [placing candidates] on the general election ballot," he said. "We'll have to live with what it is unless something changes."
Riebe said she sees the ambiguity surrounding the election law as a benefit to her campaign. Instead of depending on the arbitrary approval of a nominating committee, she said, her chances rest with her ability to appeal to voters in her community.
"This is really a unique opportunity to take advantage of and hopefully see the process work a little bit more democratically," she said.
But there's no guarantee the status quo will last until the election.
When the Legislature convenes later this month, lawmakers will debate competing school board election proposals, including one by outgoing Highland Republican Sen. Alvin Jackson that would divide the board into thirds.
Under the bill, four board members would be elected in a partisan election, four would be elected to nonpartisan seats and five would be directly appointed by the governor.
"I don't think an appointed board is ideal," Riebe said. "I think our board should reflect the desires of our communities."
Neilson, of Spanish Fork, said he is a registered Republican, but he sometimes disagrees with lawmakers, particularly on the subject of public education.
He said there was an assumption that educators couldn't make it to the ballot under the old election system and he was glad to see the process changed.
"I thought that [committee] was a bunch of garbage," he said. "It's basically the fox guarding the hen house."
Neilson said he wasn't worried about possible upcoming changes to the law. But he said there are many Utahns with good ideas, and lawmakers should keep the political process inclusive.
"I hope they do the right thing," he said. "What that is, I'm not exactly sure."