Why Are You Running? The Race for School Board Leadership is On

March 27th, 2012

Category: News

If you have attended local school board meetings, you’ll know they can be thoughtful, productive, policy-focused, and decisive.  They also can be long, tedious, weed-strewn, raucous, and frustrating.  Were it not for the significant responsibilities that board members have for the quality of our schools, one might wonder why anyone would volunteer so much time to navigating policies and procedures that are all-too-often controversial and complex.

So, it’s worth finding out.

With 12 contested school board races underway in Delaware and voting scheduled for May 8th, now’s the time to learn more about the candidates in your districts.  Here are some questions to ask, with some thoughts about their importance:

• Why are you running for the school board?
Local boards are often the first step toward higher elected office.  But our schools, our students, must come first.  You could ask, “What has prompted your interest in serving on the board?”

• What goals do you hope to achieve if you are elected?
Other than facing election every five years, what is the measure of accountability—such as student performance—for board members?  You could ask, “Will you pledge to make student achievement your top priority?”

• What special strengths do you believe you would bring to the board?
Local boards are composed of members elected individually, so boards aren’t necessarily balanced in terms of expertise in finance, education, community relations, human resources, etc.  So you could ask, “What special expertise would you bring to the current board?”

• What would you do to increase and improve college- and career-readiness?
It’s our nation’s – and our state’s – priority to fully prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow, which will demand different skills, like critical thinking, collaborative problem solving, technological literacy, and self-directed learning.  Together these require a different approach to teaching and learning.  You could ask, “How would you support the development of these new kind of skills?”

• What would you do as a board member to ensure equity and fairness so that all students have the opportunity for a great education?
Right now, where a child lives often determines the quality of education he or she gets, whether through local tax resources or the quality of the teachers who choose to work in neighborhood schools.  You could ask, “What would you do to right this imbalance?”

• What would you, as a board member, do to ensure that educators have the support and resources they need to fulfill the state’s commitment to higher standards? 
Delaware and 45 other states have adopted the Common Core Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts, which are benchmarked against the best in the world.  But it will take work and time to train all our teachers, and the support of local boards will be critical.  You could ask, “What will you do to ensure that all your educators have the tools they need to teach to these rigorous new standards?”

• Given the very public role you would serve, how would you balance your role in governing the district with the special needs and interests of parents, educators, and district residents?
Board members should focus on vision, mission, and policies, rather than management and implementation, which should be left to district and school administration.  You could ask, “How would you address the often-conflicting interests of so many stakeholders?”

Armed with these and other questions, you should have a great discussion with local candidates.  You can learn more about school boards and local races here:   New Castle County, Kent County, Sussex County.

Look for Parts III and IV of the School Boards series that will run during April and May.  The first in the series can be found here.

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Dori Jacobson




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