Brian Nelson doubts there is another superintendent quite like him anywhere else in the U.S.
He oversees two school districts in two different states — North Dakota and South Dakota. Not done there, he commutes to Fairmount and Rosholt, South Dakota, each school day from his Fargo residence. That made him eligible to run for school board in Fargo, where he successfully was elected in 2018, allowing Nelson to serve both sides of the gavel.
“It helps me being on both sides. For one, I know my limitations as a board member. What we do is hire and fire superintendents and pass policies. My job as superintendent is to carry out those policies,” he said.
Nelson is starting his third year at Fairmount Public School, but has worked in education 32 years with 24 of those years as a superintendent. It was decided by Fairmount and Rosholt school boards to share Nelson since he worked half time at Fairmount, he said.
The transition is possible in part because Fairmount, Rosholt and Campbell-Tintah in Minnesota formed a sports cooperative a few years ago, Nelson said.
The other reason this works is because principals Jay Townsend at Fairmount and Spencer Oland at Rosholt do exceptional work, Nelson said.
Few issues have cropped up so far, he said. While still early in the first year of a two-year contract, Nelson isn’t expecting any problems to surface either, he said.
His first task is to get the budgets back in line so the two school districts are not deficit spending as they are today, he said. That is where a superintendent is judged — on their ability to follow the budget, Nelson said.
Fairmount is deficit spending because the number of students attending the school has decreased n the past few years, he said.
“In Rosholt, I haven’t learned why we deficit spent $98,000 in the hole since I am inheriting that budget,” Nelson said.