SBot Email

Subj:    Board cooperation and politics
Date:    5/29/99 10:13:59 AM Central Daylight Time
From:    A1Snowman
To:        sbot@nsba.org You must be a school board member to use this

"your only recourse is to work toward the election of more like-minded school board members."

This was the advice one board member gave out to another on the Sbot message board. I don't disagree but this advice brings up a delicate political point.

In Duluth we have a two faction school board. The Board I was elected to invited a "for profit" Edison school into our community and set it up as a charter school. In the following election 4 new board members were elected who all signed a pledge given them by the AFL-CIO opposing "contracting out."

I worked like crazy to see to it that these new board members would not be elected but they all were. I then approached them and asked them to elect me Board Chair to foster cooperation since we were now all on the same Board. I'll spare you the soap opera but now another election is upon us and it seems that some of the 4 are setting up the 5 older board members for unfavorable publicity on the eve of the new election. I can't blame them because some of the older members have not always been kind to the new members. If we older members survive the election it will be our turn to try to elect "more like-minded school board members," two years from now.

You can imagine how strained trust is on our Board. Our new superintendent is trying to get us to a "retreat" where we can learn to better understand each other and hopefully foster cooperation. Is it a fool's errand? Who knows?

Even without partisan elections there is always the possiblity that differing philosophies and or personalities will lead to electoral divisions on a school board. Pity the poor Superindentent who has to deal with such divisions.

Harry Welty
Duluth, Minnesota, Public Schools
enrollment 13,600