"Education is a better safeguard of Liberty than a standing army." Edward Everett
Besides Life itself, is there anything more important than the Communication of Knowledge? And the communication of knowledge to a child, has no higher calling. Teachers, Administrators, Staff and your local School Board Member - perhaps the most important jobs on this earth. Particularly as complicated and massive as the education system is in this country.
Unfortunately, just about anyone can run for School Board. But “jumping” on the issue-of-the-day simply does NOT qualify one for this important position. Is it time we had an FCAT for candidates? On-the-job training just will not cut it! So it is up to us! But how can we know without a lot of research? Simple. Just read the following guideline.
How to Choose a School Board Member: What Every Voter Should Know
Before you vote, know what to look for in a candidate and KNOW what a school board does.
The most important criteria in selecting who to vote for is:
What is a board of education?
There are over 14,000 school districts and every one of them has a board of education. At over 85,000 - School board members make up the largest body of elected officials in the United States! We entrust them to set the policies and guide, in a positive way, our most cherished institutions: our public K-12 schools.
School boards are nonpartisan. In most districts, members serve four-year terms, and terms are staggered so seats don't become open all at once. In general, to run for school board, you have to be at least 18 years old, a citizen of the state, a resident of the specific district you would serve, a registered voter and eligible under the state constitution to be elected to public office.
Under parliamentary procedures (generally Roberts Rules of Order) boards meet every few weeks (or monthly) in meetings that are open to the public. These assemblies range from tame rubber-stamping sessions to challenging discussions among members where controversial issues are debated, landmark decisions are made and public commentary can be intense. But these board meetings are NOT where the real work of board members is done. The real work occurs in work-shops (that are generally also open to the public but sparsely attended) and behind the scenes in non-decision making meetings with administrative staff, principals, teachers, parents and the community at-large. In larger districts with billion dollar budgets, “board member” IS a full-time job, and then some.
School districts are complex corporations; they' re often the largest employers in a community and the decisions they make reach far, affecting jobs, resources and most importantly, the education of all children. Board membership is NOT for the faint of heart or for novices in the field of education. In spite of being only 1 of 7, they must be able to function competently from day one. Anything less jeopardizes the educational process and reduces the opportunity for one or more students to reach their highest potential. That is simply unacceptable. VOTE ONLY FOR THOSE THAT CLEARLY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING, WHAT THE JOB IS ALL ABOUT!
What do they do?
Somewhere in between the agendas, public comment sessions and resolutions, school boards make a number of important decisions. School boards establish a vision for the community's schools. They have to set up and maintain an effective, efficient organizational structure for the district that lets the superintendent and administrators manage the schools, teachers teach and students learn.
They are responsible for evaluating, hiring and a superintendent (in some locations the superintendent is elected by the voters), evaluating and adopting policies that affect all schools in the district, serving as a judicial and appeals body when conflicts go unresolved, monitoring and adjusting district finances, and managing the collective bargaining process with a variety of unions in the district, that quite often have conflicting agendas.
A school board has a symbolic or image role as well. The behavior it shows off in the meeting room, the rapport among school board members and the relationships that members have with teachers and administrators in the district all add up to the climate of public education in a community. There will always be naysayers and negative detractors within the community at-large. Healthy or dysfunctional, bipartisan or agenda centric and fixed, a school board has a heavy influence on the spirit that characterizes a community's impression of its school system AND IS WHAT YOU VOTED FOR! PICK WISELY! It’s the only elected position where we cannot afford years of on-the-job training, political in-fighting or discord and negativity toward staff, teachers, parents or students!
How can I tell if my school board is doing a good job?
By attending (or watching on TV or a computer) a few school board meetings, you'll learn firsthand what school boards do. Look online or call your district office to find out where and when meetings are held. Once you've observed your school board in action, you'll be prepared to ask the following questions:
Getting involved with your local school board in a positive way doesn't have to mean running your own campaign for a seat. The first, simple step—one, that every registered voter should take very seriously - is voting in the election of school board members.
The communication of knowledge is at the heart of human existence. And the education of our children, in a positive, non-discriminatory manner has no higher calling. School board members, all 85,000+ of them, are the Guardians at the gate. Respect them, encourage them, help them – and chose them with great care.
After all that, if you feel compelled to do some research, look to and at the various candidate's websites or listen closely to their words. Is there nothing but old, half-baked ideas expressed in political baby-talk terms, i.e., “More accountability,” “Focus on the classroom,” “Fresh look,” “Common sense approach,” “Community Collaboration” Etc? Yes, those are great sounding phrases, but they’re meaningless without specifics and they’re specific-less because the people expressing them probably know little or nothing of substance of the education process in the public arena!
SO WHERE’S THE MEAT? WHAT SHOULD I BE SEEING AND HEARING?
A catch phrase or two, a nice smile, a glad hand and a quick joke? Well, that might work for some “elected” offices, but we simply cannot afford to entrust the education of our children to laypersons OR some group’s political agenda!
Did you know, or do you realize that District School Board Member is the ONLY position that is both “elected” and that “must know a lot about education!” Sure, we hope and believe that our State and Federal elected officials know "something" about the education process. But contemplate that for a moment and think about the power and influence they have (with their little bit of knowledge) over the K-12 learning process. Obviously, now is NOT the time for education novices on local School Boards! The last thing the students, teachers, staff AND the tax payers of ANY district can afford is someone new to, or simply unaware of, the education process in this country, its complexities and the driving forces involved.
Those seeking the position of “Guardian” of the local education process better know the specifics of the job day-one and be able to see what effect an idea will have on the lives of all involved and the learning experience of our students. That is why WE must vote ONLY for someone that does know education and the massive system, with all of its influences, within which learning occurs.
So... go back and re-read the first 5 points.
Political advertisement paid for and approved by Carol Kurdell for Hillsborough County School Board, County-wide, District 7