With Turnover Inevitable, Newcomer Support Is High Need

Type: Article
Topics: Board Relations, School Administrator Magazine

August 01, 2021

Board-Savvy Superintendent

Building an effective relationship between the superintendent and the board of education is not a one-and-done venture. That reality emerges whenever school communities hold an election involving the school board.

During the most recent election cycle in Minnesota, almost one in five of the approximately 2,150 public school board seats statewide flipped to new members, meaning more than 400 individuals assumed a public office overseeing their community’s public schools for the first time.

In Minnesota, 301 of the 336 public school districts conduct even-year elections, so board dynamics can change drastically with significant turnover occurring on five- or seven-member boards. Considering there are roughly 91,000 school board members nationally, personnel changes owing to retirements, resignations and election outcomes can be substantial. This leaves superintendents everywhere challenged to navigate the dynamics of a governing board consisting of a mix of seasoned and new members.

Sometimes the turnover is even more dramatic. Last February, all four sitting members of the school board in Oakley, Calif., resigned after an unfortunate live-feed situation following a livestreamed board meeting came to light. That superintendent was faced with working with an entirely new board.

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Deborah Pauly

Past president of the Minnesota School Boards Association and a member of the school board in Jordan, Minn.