WORTHINGTON ― Longtime school board member Linden Olson received a state honor at the regular school board meeting Tuesday night, as the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) appointed him to the 2021 All State School Board.
MSBA Executive Director Kirk Schneidawind, MSBA President Deb Pauly and District 3 Director Jeanna Lilleburg were all present at the meeting via Zoom to present Olson with the award.
"This award is given to those public school board members who walk the walk," Schneidawind said. "They know and demonstrate good governance, they know how to advocate for their students, they know and understand the importance of working with others as a team and they set their bar on ethics very high."
"This award is our association's top honor," Pauly added.
She noted that up to seven school board members in Minnesota receive this award each year (five were chosen this year) out of 2,140 board members throughout the state.
"Linden, that passion and your love of the students truly shows," she continued.
Lilleburg, who sat on the five-person committee that selected Olson, shared some of what distinguishes Olson from his peers.
"Out of all these high-achieving board members, Linden, you easily stood out from the rest," she said.
Nomination forms described Olson as "a champion of our diverse population" and "someone who comes to the meeting prepared with research and questions," Lilleburg said.
Olson was praised for his keen mind for public policy and how it affects local school districts. He has long served as the board's legislative liaison.
"It is indeed an honor to be selected as one out of five," Olson said, upon receiving his award. "I'm extremely grateful for being selected."
Olson previously served on the MSBA board, and one of his duties during his tenure was on the selection committee that chose recipients of this very award. He shared some insight from his experience with that responsibility.
"Number One, there are a lot of board members who do a lot for public education in Minnesota who deserve recognition but seldom get it," he said, "Number Two, there are very few school boards that have two members who have received that recognition ― Worthington is one of them, with Steve Schnieder receiving that award two years ago.
"Number Three, All State recipients are not one-person shows; they come from schools and boards that work well together ― and when I say 'schools,' I mean administrators, teachers and other staff that respect each other, and when differences or disagreements occur, they are never personal. So while this award, I understand, is given to me, I believe that part of it belongs to the other board members, administrators, teachers and other staff members who, without their support over the years, I could have never received it, and I thank all of you for your support over the years that made this award possible."
Tuesday was Olson's last school board meeting, as he received the fewest votes on the Nov. 3 election and was defeated by challenger Tom Prins.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Olson requested a few moments of personal privilege.
"I'd like to give you thanks for all the kind words that have been said today, and I'd like to reflect a little bit on my 16 years on the school board," he said.
Olson said he has many people to thank. Rather than naming each person, he simply expressed appreciation for his wife, Carol, who made it possible for him to take time away from home so he could serve on the school board.
He listed a few highlights of his tenure on the school board: seeing technology be integrated into classroom learning, the creation of a student school board representative and receiving the Friend of Education award.
"While my service as a board member is ending, my passion for public education is not," he said.