Marquell Johnson, UW-Eau Claire associate professor of kinesiology and director of rehabilitation science, has been chosen to fill the first of two open seats on the Eau Claire school board.

The school board voted at a virtual meeting Monday to appoint Johnson to a board seat, which was vacated by Laurie Klinkhammer and extends through April 2021.

Johnson said Monday he will advocate for accessibility and diversity in the district’s policies, and for Eau Claire students with disabilities.

Many of Johnson’s friends and acquaintances are proud of the school district, and “I’d like to serve on the board to ensure these experiences continue, not only for my children but all children the district serves,” he said Monday.

Students of color, who make up about 24% of the district’s enrollment, need representation from school leaders and administrators, said Johnson, who is black.

Johnson has been a member of the school district’s post-secondary advisory committee and director of western Wisconsin disability recreational programs P.R.I.D.E. and P.R.I.D.E.4Adults, according to his resume.

His children attend Manz Elementary School and South Middle School.

Out of a field of 13 applicants, Johnson received a majority of votes Monday night. His duties will officially begin Wednesday.

Board members Eric Torres, Lori Bica, Phil Lyons and Tim Nordin voted for Johnson. Aaron Harder voted for St. Edward’s Montessori School teacher Erica Zerr, and Joshua Clements voted for Mayo Clinic Health System nursing education specialist Amy Olson.

Applications for former board President Eric Torres’ seat are also open. The district is accepting applications through 4 p.m. May 27. An application is available online at People can request a paper copy by calling 715-852-3002.

Candidates must deliver a maximum three-minute statement at a 7 p.m. June 1 school board meeting, where the board will also choose a final candidate. The new member will serve out the rest of Torres’ term, which ends in April 2021.

In other school district news:

  • On Monday the board began discussing reopening classrooms for students in the fall, and the safety, financial and staffing impacts on the district. Three options are being explored: Reopen with all face-to-face learning in the fall, reopen with 100% virtual learning, or take a hybrid approach. A task force is forming to tackle the issue, made up of administrators, staff members, principals and representatives from elementary, middle and high schools. Discussions continued past the Leader-Telegram’s press time Monday night; visit and the Leader-Telegram’s Wednesday issue for more information.
  • DeLong Middle School’s new principal will be Michelle Wiberg, who is taking over the role from her current position as assistant principal. Longtime DeLong principal Tim O’Reilly is set to retire June 30. Wiberg has taught with the district since 1995 and has been assistant superintendent at DeLong since 2001, Hardebeck said.
  • The board voted unanimously to give 12-month employees, including custodians, administrators and others, three different options for using excess vacation time. The coronavirus-related school closures have made it difficult for some staffers to take vacation time this spring, including custodians, IT employees, administrators and others, said executive director of business services Abby Johnson. Those employees will be able to convert their unused vacation time to sick days for the 2020-21 school year, convert half to sick days and receive a payout for the other half, or have the district pay out all vacation days forfeited after July 1.
  • People who wish to give schools Superintendent Mary Ann Hardebeck a goodbye message before she retires from the district at the end of June can send a card, note or well wish to ECASD—Superintendent Celebration, 500 Main St., Eau Claire, WI 54701 by June 1, the district said in a news release. The messages will be in lieu of an in-person celebration. Hardebeck is retiring from the district after almost eight years; new superintendent Michael Johnson, assistant superintendent of South Washington County schools, will take over the role in July.
  • The next school board meeting is slated for June 1.

Contact: 715-833-9206,, @sarahaseifert on Twitter