Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Board Service

School districts are complex organizations with many moving parts. We have custodians and building engineers that are tasked with making sure the facilities look sharp and are safe for children, the teachers who ensure your child learns the multitude of skills and concepts that are necessary for a productive member of society, and the cooks make sure that there are healthy and nutritious meals for lunch. Then there are the para-professionals who provide valuable service to the teachers and work with students who need extra help, and the bus drivers who make sure your child gets to work safely each day. Coaches are on staff to teach our young student athletes strategies and techniques in sports.  I suppose the list wouldn't be complete if we didn't at least mention the administrators tasked with the coordination and management of this very complex organization.

We could stop right there, and still say that school are complex. But the list of dedicated employees mentioned above would be incomplete. There are numerous volunteers that play a huge role in the life of school districts, from PTO members, to boosters and classroom volunteers. In this list however, I think that there is one group that is sometimes an afterthought. That is the service of members of the school board!

Were you aware that school board service is the only elected official that by statute receives no compensation in the State of Iowa? School board service is completely voluntary, and is one of the most difficult and rewarding of civic duties. I believe that school board service is perhaps the truest form of a democratic  government. 'Taxation Without Representation. was one of the primary grievances that led to the the American Revolution. Your local school board is elected from the citizenry and one of its functions is to be good stewards of taxpayer resources. They annually adopt a budget that does just that. Choices are made that not only impact the education that your children are receiving in the classroom, but impact the community in general. School board service is a noble cause indeed. I suppose that some may believe that to be a member of the local school board is merely a commitment to show up to a meeting every month and to do whatever the superintendent tells them to do. That certainly isn't the case, and I wouldn't want them to!

To be a board member means that you agree to study and learn about educational issues in Iowa in depth. It means to understand complex financial metrics in a way that can easily be explained to the general public. Ah, yes! I said study. Being a board member means much more than just showing up. Board members are required to study between 50-75 pages of documents prior to coming to the meeting, and sometimes there are many more pages than that! And about that meeting-sure we have one scheduled each month, but it is not uncommon to have two, and there have even been times with even more. Each with its own required readings. The meetings begin at 6:00, and on a good night we will conclude by 9:00. More often than not the meeting will last until 10:00.

There is no doubt about it, the meetings are long. But the discussion is rich and the deliberation before making decisions is thoughtful. Hopefully I have painted an accurate picture of what it means to serve on the school board. With all that hard work, you must be wondering, what is the payoff? Long hours with no pay?Phone calls from angry constituents? Discipline hearings with unhappy endings? Budget cuts and layoffs?

Yes, it is all of those things, and more.

It is the ability to make a difference.

It is the love of your community and school.

It is the adoption of a new curriculum.

It is providing new and exciting resources for their children and yours.

It is the building improvements and enhancements.

It is balancing the budget.

It is the 1:1 initiative.

It is knowing that you have had courage to make the tough decision.

I am proud of the Hudson Community School District and the work of our school board. If you have an opportunity, please thank them for their service. They don't hear that a lot.

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