July 23, 2001
Guest Editorial invest in the future - serve on your local school board
By Bill Williams, President Washington State School Directors' Association
It has alternately been described as "the most important volunteer job in this country" and "the toughest job in America elected government."
It is the epitome of democracy in action. And it is fundamental to the future of our communities, our state and our nation.
It is the job of a school board member. And, with school board elections coming this fall, now is the time for civic-minded citizens to consider stepping up to the challenge of this important public service.
Citizen school boards are at the heart of our public education system. Each school district is governed by a school board made up of locally-elected citizens who spend hundreds of hours a year making decisions aimed at promoting higher levels of student achievement.
Even now, while students enjoy the summer holiday, school boards are working to address a myriad of challenges in public education. Improving and assessing student learning, reducing the performance gap for poor and minority students, providing for smaller class sizes, promoting school safety - these are just some of the issues on the agendas of school boards around the state.
The local school board serves as a vital link between the community and the classroom - making policy, setting budgets and providing leadership and advocay for public education. As "governors" of the school district, school board members perform critical functions in four major areas:
€ Vision - The board focuses the work of the district and community on student achievement through a comprehensive strategic planning process.
€ Structure - The board governs the district through prudent financial planning and oversight, and diligent and innovative policy making.
€ Accountability - The board infuses all programs and crucial policies with specific goals and a process for evaluation, reporting and recommendations for improvements.
€ Advocacy - The board champions public education in the local community and before state and federal policy makers.
Each school board member brings his or her own style of leadership to school board service. While there is no "ideal" working style, there are certain basic characteristics that contribute to successful school board service.
Effective school board members have a sincere interest in public education and are committed to ensuring a quality education for the boys and girls in their communities. They are respected and involved in their communities, and bring with them a broad base of knowledge and experience. And they are willing to spend long hours working as a team with other board members to benefit the school district and the community.
Why is it important to be thinking about school board service now? To run for school board, you must file a declaration of candidacy with your county auditor or elections department during the week of July 23-27 (If a school district is located in more than one county, candidates file in the county where the majority of the district's residents live).
To serve as a school board member, you must be a registered voter in the school district and (if applicable) a registered voter in the director district within the school district. Your county auditor can assist you with voter registration and other questions you may have about being a candidate.
Public edication is a promise to our children; a promise that they will be prepared for the challenge of being responsible citizens of our society. Serving your community as a school board member means making a commitment to the children and being a part of honoring that promise.
Invest in the future - consider serving on your local school board.
Bill Williams is president of the Washington State School Director's Association, which is made up of all 1,482 school board members from Washington state's 296 public school districts. Williams is a member of the North Thurston School Board in Lacey.