August 28, 2008 · Updated 1:19 PM
Invest in the future serve on your local school board.
It has alternately been described as the most important volunteer job in our country and the toughest elective office in America.
It is the embodiment of democracy in action. It is fundamental to the future of our communities, our state and our nation.
It is the job of school director an elected member of a school district board of directors. And, with school board elections on the horizon, now is the time for civic-minded citizens to consider stepping up to the challenge of this important public service.
Citizen school boards are at the heart of our public education system. Each school district is governed by a school board made up of locally elected citizens who spend hundreds of hours each year making decisions designed to help all students achieve and have a successful life.
Right now, school boards are working to address myriad challenges in public education. Improving student learning, reducing the performance gap for poor and minority students, providing for smaller class sizes and more early learning opportunities, promoting student health and safety these are just some of the issues on the agendas of school boards around the state.
The local school board serves as a vital link between the community and the classroom. School boards ensure that local representatives who understand the communitys unique challenges, values, culture and circumstances make decisions on educational programming.
As governors of the school district, school directors perform critical functions in four major areas. First, vision the board focuses the work of the district and community on student achievement through a comprehensive strategic planning process. Second, structure the board governs the district through prudent financial planning and oversight and diligent and innovative policymaking. Third, accountability the board infuses all programs and crucial policies with specific goals and a process for evaluating, reporting and recommending improvements. Fourth, advocacy the board champions public education in the local community and before state and federal policymakers.
Each school director brings his or her own style of leadership to school board service. While there is no ideal working style, there are certain basic characteristics that contribute to successful teamwork on a school board.
Effective school directors have a sincere interest in public education and are committed to ensuring a quality education for the boys and girls in their communities. They are respected and involved in their communities and bring with them a broad base of knowledge and experience. And they are willing to spend long hours working as a team with other board members to benefit the school district and community.
Why is it important to be thinking about school board service now? To run for school board, you must file a declaration of candidacy with your county auditor or elections department during the week of June 4 8, 2007. If a school district is located in more than one county, candidates file in the county where the majority of the districts residents live.
To serve as a school director, you must be a registered voter in the school district and (if applicable) live within a specific geographic area within the school district. Your county auditor can assist you with voter registration and other questions you may have about being a candidate.
Public education is a promise to our children; a promise that they will be prepared for the opportunities and challenges of being responsible citizens of our society. Serving your community as a school director means making a commitment to the children and being a part of honoring that promise.
Invest in the future consider serving on your local school board.
Cindy McMullen, President of the Washington State School Directors Association