Political issues decide school board elections across the metro

The results of school board races show politics are now at play, thanks to the fight over mask and vaccine mandates in the classroom.

"It's certainly brought attention to school board races," said Kirk Schneidawind with the Minnesota School Boards Association. "I don’t think it was the attention we were looking for."

Schneidawind says the politicization of school board races came on quick with the pandemic and while you won’t find a "D" or an "R" next to candidates’ names on the ballot in most races it was obvious.

In Minnetonka, both newcomers to the board campaigned on progressive platforms. Both surpassed two conservative candidates in votes.

"I’d be knocking on doors and someone would say, ‘okay thank you for what you said, what do you think about masks?’" said Patrick Lee-O’Halloran who won his first term on the Minnetonka School Board Tuesday. Lee-O’Halloran ran on a pro-mask, pro-equity platform.

"My candidacy was not aimed to appeal to the people who are going to try and pound on the doors and turn Minnetonka red," said Lee-O'Halloran.

This year, nearly 70 school board members resigned from their positions. The Minnesota School Boards Association says that’s triple the resignations they see in a regular year.

Schneidawind says while they advocate for keeping school boards non-partisan, he fears this isn’t a temporary trend.

"This is something - at least for the short term - our school boards should probably get used to," he said. "I think it’s going to be like this at least through the election of 2022, if not beyond."

But even in such divisive times, this first-time board member says there’s still plenty left to agree on.

"I really believe that as a community we can come together when it comes to what is really important to our kids and our schools."