With school board elections before us, those voting may think they are casting a ballot for someone who will accept a high-profile position within the community and the spotlight that can bring. What they may not know is that most of the very hard work board members accomplish takes place with no spotlight at all and no pay.
It involves hours and hours of reading through volumes of reports and spreadsheets, endless research and committee meetings that can run late into the night. The list of those obligations is long but includes a Board Policy Review Committee, Legislative Committee, Calendar Committee, Facility Committee, Technology Committee, Health Insurance Committee and many more. Bills of the district are sent to board members prior to the board meeting so they can be reviewed and approved and the next board meeting.
Board members are expected to become knowledgeable in school finance (an extremely complicated topic) as well as understanding the latest in curriculum and instruction. Their steep learning curve once on the board includes building and construction, state learning standards and insurance coverage.
Board members sit on the district negotiation team working out an annual agreement with various employee groups. None of this takes place during a board meeting. By the time a board meeting occurs, members have already done all of the hard work and have discerned most of the answers they need to vote informatively on policy matters.
The once-a-month board meeting ensures all of those votes take place in public, but unfortunately does not spotlight all of the hard work that went into what may appear to a casual observer to be a simple ‘yea’’ or “nay.” The length of a board meeting certainly does not reflect the amount of time it takes for board members to make an intelligent, informed vote. (In fact, a less lengthy meeting often means the board members have done their homework ahead of time.) It also does not show the difficult decisions that are made, per Missouri law, in closed session in regard to personnel matters, legal issues or real estate transactions.
Expect your vote to matter. Expect it to make a difference for students and the future. But don’t expect that your chosen candidates will get credit for all of their hard work if they win a seat on the school board. It might be out of the spotlight, but it is their unsung work that will lead our district and our community into the future with quality education at the focus of their mission.
David Rock, an Independence resident, has grandchildren attending school in the Independence School District.