School Board Elections and the Need to Get Involved

May 11th, 2011

Category: News

The education reform community is broad, yet not all of us have a direct role in making the decisions that will benefit our students the most.  Voting for school board members is one important step that all of us—teachers, parents, eligible students, and business, community, and philanthropic leaders alike—can take. 


Many of us in Delaware did that yesterday. And now that we have the election results, it’s time to find a way to draw the larger public further into the conversation, to lend their unique perspectives on what will work best for our students, our schools, and our communities. State and district efforts on Race to the Top this year were focused on laying the foundation: raising standards, strengthening student assessment and data systems, and building new pipelines of teachers and leaders. But because agreements on how RTTT funding will be spent at the district or charter school level (known as “Scopes of Work”) will not be made public for at least another month, the average parent and teacher probably has not seen much change at the classroomlevel. 


That will come this summer and fall, when new programs and positions like professional development and data coaching begin to take hold.  In the meantime, as reform efforts start to shift from the state to the local level, communities around the state should collectively figure out how to have the frank conversations needed to generate results. And as we all know, “frank” discussions are often the hardest to have.


For example, as new “Partnership Zone” schools are announced this August, will our local communities develop a stronger voice to help shape what real change should look like?  As we continue to think about what it takes to recruit and retain great teachers and leaders, will we be willing to open the complicated conversations about compensation?  Will we really listen to students about how and what they want to learn so they won’t have to “power down” when they get to school and “power up” when they leave? Given our collective tendency to simply add more reform “ornaments” to the district’s Christmas tree of strategies, can we say no to some things we have done for years so that we can be more focused and impactful?  These are the hard decisions of local implementation, and our ability to make them well will define our success.


As we have learned over the last several weeks in Delaware, school boards hold a lot of power. Let’s put that power to good use by exercising our voices more.  I encourage everyone to reach out to their new and existing school board members to hear their vision and to tell them yours.

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Paul Herdman



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