Former board members provided sound leadership

Bill Bresin, Joe Grafft served school district well

Linda Madsen
Guest Columnist

As of last week, two of our finest school board members left their positions. I wish to bid them farewell and to thank them for their many years of dedicated service.

It has been a true honor to work for board members like Bill Bresin and Joe Grafft, who have committed many years of their lives in order to help us maintain a high quality public school district in this area.

Both of these fine gentlemen have served on the school board proudly with dedication and an immense degree of professionalism, and they have been driving forces in leading our district in a positive direction despite the many obstacles we have faced.

Bill has been a school board member for just under 20 years, and 12 of those years as board president. He has always been an ardent advocate for student achievement, and the creation of our district’s curriculum review process was largely due to Bill’s influence. He has always been known as the “calm voice of reason” on the board, and his leadership as president has had a bold and lasting influence on the way our district conducts its business.

Joe has been a board member for 12 years and has held several offices on the board, including vice-president. Many of the health and safety initiatives that our district has undertaken in recent years are a result of Joe’s hard work and advocacy, not the least of which was the creation of our district’s crisis management plan. He also fought hard to make sure that Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) were installed in every building in our district, just one example of his dedication to the well-being of the people in our district. As professional Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) trainer and published author, Joe has continued to work with staff and students on various health and safety issues, both in and out of the classroom.

These are two extremely hard-working, intelligent and dedicated board members who have made it their mission to ensure that our school district is the best it can be, and that the students of this district receive the best education we can possibly give them. To serve for that long in leadership positions which demand so much time and effort is something truly noteworthy, and I wish them the best in all of their future endeavors.

I know there are many people in our society who are under the impression that serving as a school board member amounts to little more than showing up for meetings 12 times a year and expressing their opinions. Some think it’s a pretty easy job that anybody could perform with minimal effort. I can say without hesitation that anybody who believes this is very much mistaken.

School board members spend countless hours in meetings, traveling to professional development seminars, speaking with constituents and performing their duties. They meet in full session at least twice each month to conduct the business of the school district – business which involves detailed policy making, budget review, in-depth discussion about personnel issues and a myriad of other topics that require their attention and decision-making.

The learning curve for a new board member can be steep, as each member must continually study and learn about how our education system works, not only in our own district but around the state and even around the country. Most board members do not have a formal, professional background in teaching or public education when they first take office.

Yet in order to perform their duties as competent school board members they must eventually know many of the same things that educational professionals know. They need to learn how teachers are trained, the methods and processes that are used to teach children, and to understand the inner-workings of a multi-million dollar institution. They must also become experts at public school finance – one of the most complicated systems in any part of our state and federal government, rivaled only by our federal tax code.

The pay for board members is minimal, particularly so in this district, and many board members end up taking time off of work and spending money out of their own pockets to continue learning and gathering new information in order to stay ahead of the curve.

In addition to their duties as school board members, these dedicated people often volunteer many hours of their time on related matters such as helping pass bonds and levy referendums. And of course, in order to remain on the school board they must campaign for votes every four years, which itself can be an extremely demanding process.

These are busy people, like many others, with families and lives and responsibilities. Most have full-time jobs and many have children and grandchildren in our school system. Yet they have taken on this additional responsibility, sacrificing time from work and family in order to fulfill the duties of overseeing the operation of a school district. The toll can be rather overwhelming sometimes. Just ask their family members.

To serve even one or two terms as a school board member is a major commitment that some would find difficult or even impossible. But to realize the accomplishments that these gentlemen have achieved for 10, 15 or 20 years is truly amazing, and it’s a testament to their commitment to serve their communities.

Thank you, Bill and Joe, for all you have done over these many years. Your service to our school board will be long remembered.

Linda Madsen is superintendent of schools in Forest Lake School District 831.