This is a story about my intensity as a person and why I cannot make a run for a seat on the school board. You need to know that I wish I did not notice every little thing or have the intense desire to want change and educational reform. It is a story about letting go and accepting what I can and cannot do to implement change. It is a story I wrote in October and am just posting now.
Over the last decade, I have done a lot of thinking about whether or not I should consider a run for school board. I am student centered, passionate about education – especially excellence in education, worked extensively as a school and district volunteer going so far as to form groups that not only benefit our students, but their parents, and our community, as well. Given all that, it sounds like a no brainer! In fact, a number of people in our community have told me that I should take this political leap, especially as I became visible as a student advocate.
In truth, our school board really needs a change in membership. A few members have been on the board as long as I can remember, and we have lived here almost nineteen years! That is much too long to be calling the educational shots in a growing district. You might respond by telling me that they keep getting re-elected because they are good at what they do. To that I would respond that they keep getting re-elected because the rest of us are too complacent and down right lazy to take their place! It takes a large commitment of time and investment in community to serve on any kind of community board, school boards included. While I appreciate their time, it is their perspective I have come to question. I strongly believe that to in order for our district to move forward we need change. And because the board governs our schools, it is where the change needs to occur.
If I were to run, the first thing I would do is to advocate for term limits. Serving too long on a board negates the infusion of new ideas. New ideas are often needed to move forward and can be the impetus for change. New people bring new ideas. So, I would suggest that no board member serve for more than two consecutive terms or six years in our district. That is long enough. After six years, let someone else have a chance to serve. This would insure a change, but not constant change, and also eliminate stagnation in the group making policy decisions regarding our students, teachers, and facilities.
Did you notice how I put students first in the above list? Students should come first. We need to be student centered and student driven. We cannot just say it, it has to be implemented and publicly evident! We need to show – especially to outsiders – that students’ needs are paramount. We need to take a look at poor teaching practices and out dated policies that prevent us from better serving our students. Someone has to make some hard decisions, reprimand, re-educate, and re-evaluate how students are being taught – the methods being used, the tone being stated, and the words being delivered. Humiliation and sarcasm have no place in a classroom. And, although I know I am singing an old song, someone has to get around to putting a stop to those actions! The effects on students are too devastating.
But, I realized that I am too intense for making a run at a seat on the school board. Yes, I want excellence for our student body! In many ways, I have worked to achieve that end. However, the desire for excellence, and what needs to be done to achieve it, consumes my thoughts when I let it. I know this because five days ago, I agreed to a meeting of some significance, a meeting on a topic in which I have been personally invested in for years. It is a topic in which I have depth of personal and practical experience. In the last five days, all I have done is to prepare for that meeting. (This is what took place in October.) If you could have seen the sleep deprived look on my face, it would have proved it!
If, and it is a big IF (I am not at all sure I am popular enough to win – and popularity is a part of it folks! Do not be naive!) If I were to obtain a seat on the school board, I would be living and breathing advocacy for three years. I think it would kill me. No, I am sure it would kill me! Before the meeting I had in October, I told myself that if things went well and I was able to voice my position, rationally providing evidence and reason, all the while being a good listener, I could probably handle taking a run at a school board seat. I did all that during the meeting. We shook hands and I left. Our meeting was collegial, congenial, and ended well – both sides being heard, any initial hard feelings dissipated. But, upon arriving home, my husband asked me a simple question that I had not obtained the answer to during the course of my meeting. And, I realized that while trying to be a good listener and keep my composure, I forgot to be a good detective.
In fact, my husband was the only person I lost composure with on the issue I went to discuss. But, loose it – I did! There were tears, and sobbing, and even some shouting! It only took me five days and a well thought out question that I could not answer, to send me into a tail-spin! I realized that despite how badly I want change in our school board and advocate for over-all educational reform, as well as helping our district to become student centered, I cannot do it and remain healthy!
The time is drawing near; I believe candidacy needs to be filed by the end of day on the 2nd of January 2018. I have been contemplating this potential position for a long time. In fact, it is really the only thing I can think of that I have not tried to do to effect change in our educational system. Last year, I did not file – although, I thought about it – a lot! I was very close to doing it. Last year, the two board members whose terms were ending ran unopposed. This was incredibly disheartening to me, and I admit, maybe to no one else except a few of my closest friends. I distinctly remember feeling I had missed the boat and reset my sights on running this year. But, this year is here, and now I know more. I know that I cannot do what it takes to run for school board. My intense personality will prevent me from doing it. The collapse in composure with my husband when passionately discussing what I saw was a problem at hand will prevent me from doing it. Being consumed while preparing for a meeting, and being sent into a tailspin within five days, will prevent me from running for a seat. Not wanting to be a dissenter all the time, or not even knowing if I can be a dissenter some of the time when it comes to board agenda items prevents me from doing it. There are other things more important to me – namely, my health and my family.
My boys are in a good place and doing well. I am fearful of that being altered if I become a person who rocks the boat in a public way. I really want them to enjoy school and do well – just like they are right now. Their time is almost done. In fact, some of the intangible traits they have gained – self-reliance, self-advocacy, a strong work ethic, and pride in what they have accomplished have risen out of the system adversities and incompetencies they have faced. Those are invaluable attributes. They have had some absolutely great, outstanding teachers and some that really need to improve or do something else. But, I have asked myself, is this not the same in every educational system? I have come to the conclusion that yes, in fact, it is the same.
Over the years, I have made solid contributions to our school district. If I were to be honest, these contributions have been much, much more than the average person or parent makes to a district. I have been donating my time for 17 years! I have served on building and district committees, formed groups for parents, formed and led several groups for students, organized fundraisers, worked in numerous classrooms from kindergarten through the middle school grades, donated time and money to school groups, and risked putting myself “out there” by meeting with administrators about outdated policies or inept teaching practices, and advocating for our students – ALL of our students, not just mine (which, in and of itself, is highly unusual).
But, since it only took five days, one meeting, and one question to send me into a tailspin, I know now I have to let it go; I cannot do more. I cannot serve.
I hope someone can. We still need change.