August 9, 2012 by Sarah M
// By Dylan Thomas //
LINDEN HILLS — Eli Kaplan, a regular presence at School Board meetings who has volunteered on various Minneapolis Public Schools committees for decades, this week launched a write-in campaign for the board’s open at-large seat.
Kaplan, 80, of Linden Hills, said he was “not impressed” with any of the four candidates for the citywide seat, including incumbent Carla Bates, currently the longest-serving member on the board. He made the decision after a School Board candidate forum Monday evening.
“After the forum on Monday and listening to the candidates, my wife said, ‘I don’t know who to vote for. Eli you’ve got to run,’” he said.
Kaplan laid-out his platform in a blog post. It emphasizes transparency and openness in communication with community members, fiscal responsibility and the setting of clear goals for staff, administrators and district-sponsored charter schools.
Kaplan supported Bates during the last election, but they’ve experienced a falling-out. He said she encouraged the disbandment of the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, a body Kaplan served on and chaired, in favor of a new citizens’ group to advise on long-term planning, but that plan went nowhere.
“This led to my belief that Carla really does not want any citizen’s input,” he said. “…If my experience with Carla hadn’t been what it is, I think I would probably have supported her.”
Other candidates seeking the at-large seat include Doug Mann, who is in his seventh run for the School Board. Said Kaplan: “He’s running on the same issue over and over again.”
Janice Mae Harmon has aligned herself with the Independence Party, but otherwise has not staked out any specific positions on district policy. Harmon clearly struggled in the candidate forum, apparently experiencing some stage fright, and could not provide direct answers to most questions.
Willis G. Trueblood was absent from the forum. Trueblood was hospitalized late last month, and efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.
Kaplan said he earned a PhD in biochemistry and worked for two decades as a biochemist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis. He later worked in computer repair, and currently teaches students at Patrick Henry High School to rehab old computers.
He acknowledged some of the limitations that come with age; he no longer hears well in noisy situations and can struggle to understand accented English. He also understands the demands of what can be a time-consuming job, but said, as a retiree, “time is on my hands.”
The primary election is Aug. 14. The two candidates who get the most votes in the citywide race will appear on the ballot on Election Day.
Write-ins are not allowed on the primary ballot, so Kaplan’s effort is aimed at the main event in November.