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Making the “Ask”

Stacy Bogard

By Stacy Bogard, CAE, MASB Assistant Director of Communications, PR & Marketing

DashBoard, May 30, 2018

After identifying a potential candidate with the abilities or skills that would be suited for school board service, how do you ask someone to run for the school board? The best advice is to be forthright and completely honest about the demands and rewards of the job. Stating the benefits is the right place to start but be prepared to address a prospective candidate’s concerns and questions about board service. Here are some examples of how to handle such issues:

It takes a lot of study to become an effective board member. But everything you learn will prove helpful in other aspects of your life. School board membership will make you a more rounded person and a more effective citizen. Fortunately, there’s a lot of help available—orientations, professional development, expert advice and resources, and most importantly, a chance to network with colleagues and veterans.

The board is confronted with some difficult and controversial decisions that can generate a lot of emotion. But nothing worthwhile comes easy. You’ll feel good about making a substantial contribution to your schools and community.

Board members occasionally encounter people who, with special interests, causes or even personal grudges, tend to use their elected positions to grandstand or push personal agendas. But most people involved in public education are not that way. In addition, there’s a special bond that grows among members of a school board who go through tough times together; they learn to see life’s routine problems in a broader light and perhaps to take themselves a little less seriously.

Serving on a school board does take time and energy. But the amount of time devoted to board work varies widely among boards and board members. Most board members find they must change their schedules in some way, but it’s usually a change for the better. Board service gives the individual a real sense of purpose.

It’s true that an individual board member has no authority to hire a coach, throw out a library book or buy new equipment for the chemistry lab. But the board member has one-seventh of the votes and is free to offer evidence and persuasive arguments to the other six members. It’s a democratic process that’s more cumbersome than a dictatorship would be, but it’s good for everyone in the long run.

You may not have children currently enrolled in the district. But it’s important that all of the voices in the community be heard. All district residents have a stake in the success of our schools. Having the perspective of a nonparent on the board can be extremely useful as the board engages in an ongoing conversation with the community regarding the district’s mission, vision and goals.

Get on Board

The school board is heavily dependent upon the knowledge and judgment of the superintendent, and we’d be lost without such a person. But the board hires the superintendent, draws up the job description, and adopts the policies that specify what the district is expected to accomplish and defines operating parameters. The amount of authority and flexibility delegated to the superintendent is directly proportionate to the responsibilities associated with the job. The school board still holds itself accountable to the public, so there’s no cop-out.

There are many other issues and questions that a prospective candidate might raise. The goal should be to find a candidate who will approach board membership with a clear understanding of the demands and expectations—plus a constructive attitude toward the challenge. If you focus on the opportunities and not just the obstacles, you should be able to have a productive conversation that emphasizes the benefits and value of school board service.

Don’t forget, the filing deadline to run for a school board position is July 24. For more information and resources, check out the Get on Board microsite. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact MASB at getonboard@masb.org or 517.327.5900.

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