By Dr. Ralph Kerr
There is an old saying, “April showers bring May flowers.” In addition to my birthday there is one other thing that happens every May, School Board Elections. I have written about this topic before, but every year brings another opportunity to bring to readers’ attention the importance of school board elections. The people who gets elected to your local school board can really make a difference. In addition to approving the annual budget, and all labor contracts, (think taxes) curriculum, textbooks, all school personnel, perhaps the most important responsibility of school board members is to set all district policy. Such policies can impact the entire life of the district for generations. I hope you get the idea how important school district elections are. With that in mind let me suggest 10 qualities ideal candidates running for the local school board should have.
- Desire to continueto provide quality education for allchildren. Notice I used the word “continue.” When people are asked to rate their local school district, the average grade given is A or A-, while the grade given to education in general may be a C or D. So, assuming a candidate thinks their district scores an A, then “continue” would be the appropriate word. The other important word is “all.” Some board members are only interested in gifted and talented programs or sports. A good board candidate will be concerned for all children and their needs.
- Desire to become a part of the educational decision-making process within the community.
- Desire to help foster an environment that includes Judeo-Christian morals and ethics.
I believe this is the most important reason a person should have for running for the board. Part of the reason for the current state of poor morale and inappropriate student behavior is the lack of a moral compass and ethical purpose.
- Desire to work with others to increase academic standards. Our world continues to become more complex and for graduates to be competitive in the world academic standards need to continually be increased and students need to be expected to meet these increasing standards.
- Desire to see student test scores improved.
Test scores should not be an end all in themselves but there does need to be a common measurement that will be an indication of successful student performance.
- Desire to balance taxpayers’ affordability with financial needs of your schools. I have written extensively about this. (See the previous edition of The Good News New York)
- Interest in working with complex issues and challenges within a team environment.
Here I would stress the “team environment.” Board service is not a solo performance, but requires a team environment made up of team players.
- Committed to separation of authority. i.e. Board of Education, policy making, Administration, management of the district.
Often when difficulties arrive at the Board level in a school district it is because board members have forgotten their role and have moved into attempting to micromanage the district. This is simply wrong and can be destructive.
- Able to make thoughtful, timely decisions.
Two keywords here are “thoughtful” and “timely.” Thoughtful means considering all angles, options, etc. and weighing each of them before making a decision. Timely means having the ability to make a decision when one is called for, not postponing or stalling a decision for illegitimate reason.
- Ability to be forward thinking.
The reason many schools are held back is for the same reason many churches are held back. The famous seven words of the church. “We never did it that way before.” For the benefit of the students Board members need to be forward thinking. This doesn’t mean forgetting the past, it means building on the past for a better future. As you have opportunity to interact with school board candidates for your local school board over the next few weeks let me suggest you keep these qualities in mind and consider using them as criteria for deciding who will get your vote in May.