Vallay Varro receives St. Paul DFL endorsement for school board

Thursday, July 2, 2009

St. Paul's Democratic Party endorsed an aide to Mayor Chris Coleman on Thursday in her bid for a two-year seat on the school board this November.

Vallay Varro, 33, has been education policy director for the city of St. Paul for three and a half years.

The first to publicly announce her interest in the seat, Varro is the sister of state Sen. Mee Moua and niece of former school board member Neal Thao. She and her family were part of a Hmong migration came to the United States from Southeast Asia more than 30 years ago.

More than 250 DFL delegates met for more than two hours Thursday evening in a stuffy auditorium at Johnson High School for the special endorsing convention.

After the second ballot, Varro had more than 50 percent of the vote. Sixty percent was required for endorsement.

Louise Toscano Seeba, an assistant city attorney for St. Paul, then withdrew, as did former board member Al Oertwig. Candidates Meg Luger-Nikolai, a labor attorney and Brian Joyce, a longtime district volunteer, had withdrawn earlier in the evening.

The convention then endorsed Varro by acclamation.

"I've prepared for this work my entire life," Varro had told delegates earlier in the evening.

Varro, who is married and the mother of a 7-year-old and a 2-year-old, has a bachelor's and a master's degree in education from the University of Minnesota. She was a pre-kindergarten teacher for two years.

Her older child is at Mounds Park Academy, rather than in St. Paul Public Schools, because she was unable to get him into Nokomis Montessori or her second-choice school within the district, she said.

The special school board opening was created by the resignation of board member Tom Conlon, who announced in May he was resigning and moving to North Carolina to run a historic inn.

Conlon was the longest-serving elected official in school or city government and also the only Republican. Democrats are eager to claim his seat back.

The city's Republicans have said they are backing longtime teacher John Krenik, who originally was seeking a four-year seat on the board but recently said he is pursuing the two-year seat.

School board races are nonpartisan, but candidates usually seek party endorsement.

The DFL Party blessing has been powerful. For the past 17 years, every DFL-endorsed candidate for school board has gone on to win in November, except in the years Conlon has been on the ballot.

Whoever wins in November will take office almost immediately and serve the remaining two years of Conlon's term.

There are also three four-year seats up this November.

The St. Paul DFL Party has endorsed the three school board incumbents — John Brodrick, Tom Goldstein and Elona Street-Stewart — for the four-year seats.

The city's Republicans are backing Richard Easton, an operations manager, for a four-year seat.

Jean O'Connell, a retired 3M executive who has been chair of an advisory panel on major systemic change in St. Paul Public Schools, is running as an independent.


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