Folks it’s election time and school board races are among the most important local votes. But let’s be clear about the promises school board candidates can make. Because your school board is not the Wizard and you don’t live in Oz.
No one group should have full authority in our government and it’s the same way for our schools. In most cases school boards exist to approve budgets and policies. They also evaluate the superintendent.
That my friends, is it.
They do not decide on what standards are taught, what curriculum is established, and more. Further, they don’t decide how schools will operate. They don’t decide what pedagogical methods are solid and evidence based.
They don’t get into the weeds of operations and that’s a damn good thing.
Why? Because there is absolutely no guarantee that your school board knows anything about children, education, assessment, school finance law, and so much more. They are probably not keeping up with learning science unless they monitor daily contributions of vetted research. They are probably not keeping up with national exemplars of schools, unless they understand how to find those schools in places other than Twitter. They are probably not privy to every granular detail that is made in the course of a day in our schools.
In short they are not remotely qualified to be in charge. That’s why we have a superintendent.
School boards are definitely not the all powerful Wizard standing behind the curtain calling the shots. Please remember that as you listen to campaign promises. Especially now. When the Wizard-like promises are many.
- “I will keep your kids in school during a pandemic. Promise.” Bullshit.
- “I will keep equity on a leash so that any mention of Black Lives Matter is deemed illegal in our classrooms. Promise.” Bullshit.
- “I will keep books that are not to my liking out of our classrooms. Promise.” Bullshit.
Instead of being the lemming here, chose to be the leader. The leader who knows those promises are lies. The leader who knows that one school board seat does not call the shots.
So what do leaders look for in their school board?
Here are some questions to guide you.
- Will you expect equitable learning experiences in every school?
- Will you expect there to be a shared articulated vision and long-term goals?
- Will you expect school leadership to advance the school district or manage it?
- Will you expect progress (outside of test scores) that demonstrates best practice and overall positive impact?
- Will you step down from the school board if you breach ethics policies adopted by the school district (modeled after national and state school board’s associations)?
- Will you model humanity, humility, and kindness for all kids?
The answers to those questions matter. And during an election they matter most. Don’t be fooled by fake Wizardry. These elections are too important.
As parents, as citizens, and as stakeholders we have to bring our A game.
We have to look for the candidate that says yes to every single one of those questions. So as you listen to candidates. Look for the school board member with heart, brains, and courage who knows how to work as a team.
Your school board vote shouldn’t be based on fake promises.
The operations of your school district should not be laced with drama, fueling contention and forcing families to take sides. It’s really a pretty fun thing to watch schools do amazing things. That happens every day in communities with school boards demonstrating vision, integrity, and gumption.
You shouldn’t be sold a pair of ruby slippers that will get your schools back to what you want, just by clicking your heals three times.
Making great things happen is never that easy.
Get out there and vote for the diverse, purposeful, intelligent leader who could take on the flying monkeys if they pay your neighborhood a visit.
I promise you it will make a difference for your kids.
Jody is a long time advocate and advisor in public education. Learn more about her work at jodybritten.com