BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The North Dakota School Board Association hosted its 55th Annual convention this week.

The convention kicked off on Thursday and Friday is its last day.

Around 500 school board members, superintendents to business managers from across the state attended the event.

“We have about 25 exhibitors here today, a couple of sponsors most of them are folks that have
products that school districts are interested in,” said Alexis Baxley, the executive director of NDSBA. “Whether we are talking about buses, playground equipment, architecture firms, and the like.”

Baxley said school boards play an important role in the school system.

“We believe that local control and local decisions is what’s best for our kids and for our education,” said Baxley.

A major topic that is being discussed is the nation’s teacher shortage and what can be done about it.

“We’ll have a session a little later this afternoon about finding superintendents, we’ve had some people come and chat about visa programs to bring in foreign teachers,” said Baxley. “A lot of talk about the teacher shortage and teacher retention.

And Bismarck Public Schools is currently working on finding a replacement after Superintendent Jason Hornbacher announced Wednesday that he will be retiring after serving more than 30 years.

“We’ll be starting a superintendent search shortly so this is a great resource for that just to connect with other superintendents around the state with search firms and just learning more about the process,” said Jon Lee, president of the Bismarck School Board.

Lee said Bismarck has been lucky to not have been so heavily impacted by the teacher shortage.

“It’s a huge discussion nationwide and we have been very fortunate not to really realize that,” said Lee. “But when you talk about specials like paras and aids, and you talk about counselors they are in short supply.”

Lee said there are issues that board members need to examine more closely to improve the teacher shortage.

“There is always the pay issue, right? I think we do a really good job with compensation and benefits with teachers,” said Lee. “I’m not going to say they are overpaid, I’ll never say that, but fair would be a good word. The other issue we really need to look at is just making sure teachers have a voice.”

Lee stated it’s vitally important for teachers to feel like they can come to board members to with any issues they may have. He also said board members need to work with teachers to find the best solution.