School Board President TJ Turner resigns
- Published: August 24, 2023
Just before the adjournment of the most recent regular meeting of the Board of Education on Thursday, Aug. 10, Board President TJ Turner announced to those present that the meeting would be his last.
“I am offering my resignation tonight,” Turner said.
A senior materials research engineer for the United States Air Force Research Laboratory and reserve military officer in the Air Force, Turner said he is leaving the board due to having recently received military deployment orders.
Turner holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering and material science from Cornell University and is also a published author of historical fiction. He was serving a four-year term on the school board that was set to expire Dec. 31, 2023.
“I’ve enjoyed my time on the board the last five years,” he said during the meeting. “There are only four more board meetings left in my term; I wish I could have been here for them.”
In a statement sent to the News this week, the school board said it was “saddened” to learn of Turner’s resignation. The statement read: “We want to thank Dr. Turner for his five years of service on the school board, and his leadership for the past two years as the board president.”
The statement also lauds Turner for leading the board through 2022 contract negotiation with the Yellow Springs Education Association, under which district teachers “received a much-deserved pay increase,” and credits him for leading the board through “the latest facility discussion, which ultimately resulted in a unanimous vote for the bond and income tax placed on the ballot this fall.”
Turner was originally appointed to the school board in August 2018 to fill a vacancy left by outgoing school board member Sean Creighton, who resigned when his family left the district. Turner went on to run unopposed in 2019 to fill a full four-year term, and was elected president of the board in 2020.
As noted by the statement from the school board, Turner’s years of service on the board have in part coincided with the district’s ongoing efforts to shore up school facilities. His tenure on the board began a few months shy of the defeat of a 2018 facilities levy; prior to his initial appointment, Turner served as co-chair of a citizen group that campaigned for that levy. In 2021, Turner led the board through the process of placing a second facilities levy on the ballot, which was not passed.
After more than 18 months of research and work by the school board, its Facilities Committee and district employees, a third levy will come before voters in November.
In a follow-up interview with the News, Turner said he has been “happy to serve” on the board, and added that the last two years of his tenure have “definitely been a little more challenging.”
“But it’s been worth all the hard work and the outcome has been positive,” he said. “A lot of people thought [the current facilities levy process] was contentious, but it’s really been collaborative — at the end of the day, we only had two votes that were not unanimous; everybody came to consensus.”
He added: “I’m very proud of the work that got done — not just by the board, but by teachers, aides and district staff.”
Turner said his deployment is temporary, and though he’s not sure how long it will be, it could be up to a year. School board bylaws, Turner said, would have allowed him to be absent from duty for up to three months “without cause,” and added that military deployment would almost certainly have qualified him to finish his term in absentia.
However, he said he felt resigning was the “honorable thing to do,” as it allows the board to appoint a replacement for the remaining months of his term.
“It’s always better for the board to be fully empowered,” Turner said. “Hopefully there will be someone who’s willing to step up and take my place for the next few months.”
In order to fill Turner’s vacancy, the board announced the day after his resignation that it is currently accepting letters of interest from local residents. According to the board communication, letters of interest are due by 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23, and should be submitted to Treasurer Jacob McGrath at email@example.com; letters should address the following questions:
• Why are you interested in becoming a board member?
• What do you believe our schools should be accomplishing?
• What are your beliefs about the roles of the board and superintendent and the difference between policy-making and administration?
• How do you respond to criticism?
• Are you willing to let administrators administer the system while the Board of Education serves as policymaker?
The board will hold a special meeting to appoint a new board member to fill Turner’s vacancy on Monday, Aug. 28, beginning at 8:30 a.m., in the conference room of the Board of Education offices, located at 888 Dayton St., Suite 106. Applicant interviews will be conducted in executive session and the appointment will be announced in a public session.