Aitkin School Board met for a work session on July 30 to discuss its future vision for the district. Superintendent Dan Stifter said he would like to see the board work effectively as a united front to represent ISD 1 as a whole.

The Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) standards for school board leadership were discussed, with members giving input on the areas of strength and those in need of improvement. The five standards are: Conduct and ethics; vision; structure; accountability; and advocacy and communication.


According to the standards, the school board, as a whole, provides leadership to the community on behalf of the school district by conducting its business in a fair, respectful, legal and responsible manner. While discussing conduct and ethics, board members agreed following established policies, including the chain of command, by directing people with concerns to the appropriate staff person was its strength. An area of improvement was identified as speaking with one voice after reaching a decision.


Standards state the school board, with community input, envisions the educational future of the community and then formulates the goals, defines the outcomes, and sets the course for the school district. Members struggled to identify a clear vision for the future direction of the school district. While the students are the main priority, the financial state of the district often leads the board to make decisions that are reactionary and unfavorable.

In order to gain the support of taxpayers, board members agreed that the district’s needs should be communicated more clearly. The formation of a strategic plan would aid in this effort.


The school board, to achieve its vision, establishes organizational and physical structures for student and staff success. The structure of the board has shifted in years past. Previously, the board was more involved with curriculum. Now, the focus of the majority of the board’s effort is spent on facilities, finance and technology.


The school board is accountable to the community for constantly monitoring the conditions affecting the school district as a whole. Areas of improvement discussed were conducting regular employee reviews and classroom observations, and having more consistency with investigations and outcomes.


According to the standards for leadership, the school board advances its vision at the local, regional, state and national levels. Members identified a need for better communication with other entities outside of the district. Intentional branding for the district was also discussed.


The next step was for board members to complete a 30-minute MSBA survey. The anonymous feedback from the survey will be reviewed in September.

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