It wasn’t the way Mary Romansky envisioned ending her career on the Shakopee school board.
Romansky abruptly resigned late last month in a terse, eight-word e-mail that didn’t say why she was stepping down. The news came as a surprise to her colleagues, who expected the 61-year-old policy wonk to finish her term and retire at the end of the year.
That had been her plan, at least until Board Chairman Scott Swanson raised concerns about her level of engagement. She said she felt that was unfair.
“He told me that the board considered there were six [members], not seven. That I’m not doing anything,” she said. “People had talked to him and said they considered me a ‘waste of space.’ ”
The opening comes at a time of financial turmoil for the school board, which is attempting to regain public trust in the wake of a recent scandal involving misused credit cards. At Tuesday night’s board meeting, board members agreed that Romansky’s seat should be filled before the fall election. They plan to discuss how to proceed at Saturday’s winter retreat.
Board Member Shawn Hallett said a seventh board member would serve as an important tie breaker and also offer a fresh perspective on the budget. Three board members — Swanson, Hallett and Tony Pass — are up for re-election this fall.
“There’s a lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done right now,” said Hallett, who said she considers Romansky a friend and mentor. “It’s a huge time commitment.”
Concerns about Romansky’s level of engagement had dogged the board, Swanson said, since she was hospitalized with a brain bleed in 2015. He said he had planned to address the matter with Romansky last fall but decided to put it off until January, after she’d reached her 20-year milestone with the Shakopee schools.
“As delicately as I could, I sat down with her and was honest about how I was feeling,” he said. “The conversation was not about retirement, it was about re-engagement. I made it clear — your fellow board members need you.”
Romansky says that she’s missed only one board meeting since being hospitalized. She regained full mental functions but suffered damage to some motor skills.
“I speak funny, but I remember everything,” she said.
Supporters say Romansky, a U.S. Army veteran and former board chairwoman, has a true passion for serving children. She founded the nonprofit Good to Go Kids, which provides food and graduation photos to students who can’t afford them. During her board tenure, she championed policy and communication efforts and coined the district’s tagline “Education Forward.”
Last month, the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) recognized Romansky at its annual luncheon. She was named to the All State School Board in 2016. Plans are in the works for her Shakopee colleagues to honor her at the Feb. 26 board meeting.
Romansky said that she now plans to spend more time with her three young grandchildren and expand her nonprofit.
“I want to thank the citizens of Shakopee for electing me five times,” she said. “The students and teachers are very special.”