Tuesday, May 3, 2011

School Boards: Friend of Foe of Education?

Recently I've been attending school board meetings around the Bay Area as I consider seeking a job in public education. I have been to a few board meetings in the past and viewed them as a bit boring but necessary. During these incredibly trying times for public education, especially in California, as I've attended school board meetings in the Bay Area, I have to say my view of these volunteers has sharpened in their favor.

School board members are elected officials who have a variety of reasons for entering this office, but most of them really care about education and the kids they serve. Most boards meet once or twice a month, often for 3-5 hours, and attend several committee meetings, travel to Sacramento for budget and legislative updates, and visit schools. All of this is volunteer time and for some, it means missing work or doing the board work after a long day at the office.

School board meetings are open to the public and several of the meetings I've attended have been heart-wrenching as school children, their parents, and teachers plead with the board to maintain music, special education, and library programs. There is talk of reducing the school year through furlough days (end school in April?) and increasing class size. The California legislature has loosened up requirements so almost anything can be considered to cut costs.  What they should be doing is making decisions about increasing revenue to support education.

School boards do important work that goes unappreciated by most. The members I've observed are trying to make compassionate and wise decisions in the best interest of students. It's not an easy job and if they aren't committed to doing the right thing, supporting the superintendent and the staff, they don''t last long. If you know a school board member and you think he or she is doing a good job, be sure to say "thanks"!

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