Tomorrow is the school board election in our town. There are two incumbents and one challenger for two seats. Are you going to vote? How well do you feel you know the candidates? Do you feel like you know what issues for which they each stand? Do you value the importance of a new voice being heard or do you value the status quo and what would be referred to as experience? Do you think we need change in our school district or are you happy with the way things are now? Do you believe that board members should be irreproachable in their conduct or do you think everyone should have a second chance to be an adult after a mistake is made?
There are many things to consider when choosing a school board member. In hopes of learning more about what each candidate stood for this year, I opted to watch the candidate board forum that was posted on YouTube and took place on March 19th. I was going to attend but did not for fear I would wear my emotions on my sleeve and want certain questions answered that would indicate I was the person asking them, even in an anonymous format. So, I watched in the privacy of my own home. Yet, the forum left me flat. I really do not know more than I did before I watched it. Interestingly enough, you cannot reach the link to the broadcast through the school system’s website today. However, you can reach it directly here: School District of Holmen You Tube Channel.
Before I watched the taped forum, I was wondering about the following topics:
- thoughts on term limits for board members (one has served for 20 years)
- change will most likely take place through the infusion of fresh ideas from fresh perspectives
- where does each member stand on (re)formulating a strategic plan
- who has experience with that process?
- all stages should be visible and inclusive of stakeholders
- why do course offerings, course names, & grading practices, get changed or deleted without stake holders knowledge
- how can we make district policy more accessible and relevant to families
- several times in the last three years, I have looked for district policy on various topics on the website and been unable to find it
- how can we improve school culture (one candidate tried to address this)
- it does need improving
- how can we make better use of instructional time
- specific examples of being student centered (many buzz words like “student centered” are thrown around, yet little attention is actually given to actual examples.) I’d like some examples, please.
- Are we moving to be a project based district? Inquiry based? If so, how?
- Why do we work to hide academic success, yet promote athletic prowess?
- How can we make ALL students feel valued? (Yes, this includes the smart ones.)
- Specifically, how does each teacher currently work to get to know their students?
- What could be done differently or better?
- This is extremely important & there has been much written about it in the educational literature recently. How is this being addressed?
- Instead of hearing about how against our board members are about voucher programs – how about some talk about how we can best retain our students so they or their families do not choose to open enroll out of the district (to either a voucher supported school or other public school district). Our district numbers for loosing students to other places were high, according to an article in the newspaper this year. We need to work to retain students. At this point, retention must require some change in something – culture, policy, or both. I did not hear about how that would happen, just the rhetoric about how voucher programs are unfair to public education. Maybe so. I am not for them, either. But, as a voter, I need to hear about how we can make our good district even better and give families/students more reason for staying rather than leaving. Many will know that I speak from experience on this topic.
I wonder about all this, and more. Does any one else wonder about these things?
I think we need change in our school district and I really believe it has to start with the Board of Education. Yet, our board has not changed much in the time I have been a resident here (19 years). At this time, I feel that decisions are made arbitrarily. I know some, maybe most, would argue that they are not. But, if they aren’t arbitrarily or flippantly made, why is there not more transparency and inclusion in decision making? I see and hear words being tossed around. It all sounds good. And, yes, I would agree – we have a good school district. But, maintaining the status quo is not a way to make it better.
I hope I gave you some things to think about and I hope you vote tomorrow. Thanks!