Serving on a School Board

I am not sure there is any history as to when the first school board was started, but I'm sure it didn't take long for parents and taxpayers to want to be represented. Knowing the difference of ideas in a community only leads you to understand the different ideas and approaches that are to be represented on a school board. As a representative of all the district citizens and all the students, one has to be conscientious of the impact on the individual, as well as the whole community. A board member represents the values and standards of the community.

As I prepared to write this article about serving on a school board, my mind went in many different directions about what would interest a community member in serving. Contrary to some opinion, I believe serving is a commitment that gives much in return. One reward is learning about the operation of the educational system and the use of tax dollars to direct our students to become productive community members.

In order to best serve your community, first learn how a school board functions - starting with simply the procedure used to run a meeting. Read the "Open Meetings Act" and "Robert's Rule of Order." Attending meetings gives you first hand a look at what issues are part of board service. When confronted with a tough question - go to the policy book, it'll save you from much confusion and tell you how to deal with specific school issues.

A board member must remember that alone they have no power. He or she, is part of a seven person board and only together is there the power to implement or change policy matters. Don't promise anything as a single member. You may have to eat your words. Promise only that you will bring it up to the board - after the issue goes through the chain of command.

Learn how schools are funded, the relationship of staff to superintendent and board and visa-versa. Most importantly; remember who you represent and how to represent those you serve. It is important to note that some board memebers forget who it is, exactly, they represent. Special interest groups can throw a member who is not strong on "student first" philosophy, off balance and out of sync with the purpose of a school board.

It is important that the board operate the public's business in public. As a board member, remember to practice what you would want in any governmental board and take the approach to serve openly and only those issues that are exceptions to the "Open Meetings Act", should be taken from public view. Even then, interpret the "Act" strictly. Boards can undo years of "trust building" by taking unnecessary issues behind closed doors.

As much as you hear what a thankless job being a board member seems to be, I would like to tell you that is not true. Surely, there are times when an issue will arise that brings with it controversy and even criticism from those that do not know (or can not know) all of the facts that surround a tough decision. My experience has been that there is, at least while I have served, much consideration and thought that goes into most members votes on these decisions.

It is not often that a member will hear words of thanks but the thanks comes when at graduation you can present diplomas to eager students, ready to meet the challenges of college or the work world, and to those that somehow made it in spite of themselves.

I would encourage each member of a community with the interest, time and commitment to education, to consider the opportunity to serve those most deserving of their time and attention, students.

by Diana Peters

Editors Note: Diana Peters served on the Hononegah School Board from 1993-1997. She always put the children first in all her decision-making. She remembered the scars of Hononnegah's past and vowed never to allow history to repeat itself. I have known Diana for over six years and have seen her fight for the children and taxpayers of Hononegah. She was willing to stand firm for what she believed yet strive to understand other points of view. Diana's honesty and directness are refreshing in today's world of pat answers with little substance. We will miss her dedication and commitment to Hononegah.

Connie Eccles, CEO of ComPortOne

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