Shaw: Cut size, add term limits for Fargo School Board
"Term limits give more opportunities to more people to serve and bring in fresh ideas," writes InForum columnist Jim Shaw. "By allowing members to serve 12 years, and then potentially coming back two years later to serve for 12 more years, we would still have the needed experienced veterans on the board."
It’s time to have some consistency with Fargo’s governing bodies. So, with that, I say it’s time to reduce the size of the Fargo School Board and time for the board to have term limits. After all, the school board collects and spends more of your property taxes than any other local governing body.
The school board currently has nine members. Why? There’s no need for that many. It makes it harder for members to get to speak, makes dealing with issues more inefficient and drags out discussions. It also wastes money. Reducing the board to seven members would save taxpayers about a quarter of a million dollars over a ten-year period.
Just to put things in perspective, Bismarck, which is the largest school district in the state, has five school board members. West Fargo, which is the second largest school district in the state, has seven school board members. The Fargo City Commission, which represents more people than the Fargo School Board, has five members, although it should have seven . The Cass County Commission, which represents more people than the Fargo City Commission, has five members.
The school board elections, which occur every two years, are also out of whack. It’s too easy to get elected. In one election, the candidates with the four highest vote totals are elected. In the next election, the candidates with the five highest vote totals are elected. I’m sorry, but nobody who finishes in fifth place should be elected to anything. Perhaps that person should receive a participation ribbon.
As for term limits, the school board need only look to the Fargo City Commission or the Cass County Commission, which both have them. Both the city commission and the county commission allow members to serve 12 straight years. Then they have to sit out an election, but, they can come back and run again during the election after that. That system has worked well for both commissions.
The school board should do the same. Term limits give more opportunities to more people to serve and bring in fresh ideas. By allowing members to serve 12 years, and then potentially coming back two years later to serve for 12 more years, we would still have the needed experienced veterans on the board. We just wouldn’t make it a lifetime position with no break.
Having term limits for school board members is hardly far-fetched. San Diego residents recently voted on term limits for school board members, and the motion overwhelmingly passed with 78% of the vote .
With enough signatures, residents of the Fargo School District could put a measure on the ballot to reduce the size of the Fargo School Board. It’s unclear how term limits could be adopted. What is clear, is that it’s time to bring the Fargo School Board in line with other school boards and other commissions.
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.