If a group of adults of varying ages, professions and political persuasions were put in a room together and asked to solve a series of problems, it’s likely there would be some disagreements.
Despite this, most suburban school board meetings are surprisingly calm and free from arguments. Board members keep their ire for other members to themselves, presenting a united front to the public.
That’s why it was unusual at a recent meeting to see Lakeville school board Chairwoman Michelle Volk openly address the discord and arguing that she said has been a persistent issue.
Volk said she was upset by all the arguing rather than discussing or debating. The group couldn’t even agree that they were all willing to attend a workshop on improving board relationships and communication, she said.
“I’m frustrated with how they speak to each other publicly,” she said in an interview.
Volk brought up her concerns at the Aug. 18 work session so she wouldn’t break any rules related to open meeting law, she said.
“I have to bring all this stuff up at a public meeting. It’s not right to just go one-on-one,” she said. “I was hoping to get them to agree on board development.”
Board Member Jim Skelly said part of the issue is board members may have different expectations of what dialogue on a school board should sound like.
“You’re probably not going to have 100 percent agreement consent on every issue,” he said. “You just have to live with that.”
Katie Klanderud, board development director for the Minnesota School Boards Association, frequently conducts workshops for elected leaders who don’t always get along.
“Every board goes through a time when they are developing and trying to find ways to work with one another,” Klanderud said.
Volk said the group will probably never agree on some things, but wants communication to be more civil.
“Honestly, we just have our differences and that’s the way it is,” she said.