As parents, of course we have opinions of how our children should be taught certain things. We are their best advocates. Sometimes, as we get involved in volunteering in schools and learn about other issues, we can be good advocates of more than just our kids — we can be good advocates for all the kids. Sometimes leading a PTA committee just isn't enough!
One way to do this is to run for school committee. Should you? Well, maybe.
What does a school committee do, anyway?
School committee charters vary by town. At the most basic level, school committees work on school budgets, are a liaison between the public and the school administration, they hire certain administrators, and they set school policy. Some issues that come up fall into the gray areas on the edges, and while the school committee may not have a role in a particular issue, they may still be talking about it and hopefully trying to affect a positive outcome. They are neither a mouthpiece for the administration, nor intentionally adversarial. They should not be intentionally adversarial toward the public either. It's a delicate line they work.
Do you have the desire?
You really have to want to be on the school committee to run. There are requirements to fulfill to even get on the ballot, there's running, and there's serving, all of which take time and energy, and you may meet a lot of cynical negative people along the way. You really have to want it. If you are interested, contact your local elections board for information on requirements and deadlines.
Do you have the diplomacy?
There will be constituents for whom you can do no wrong, constituents for whom you can do no right, but most will fall somewhere in between. You need to be able to interact with each group respectfully, professionally and positively. It can be hard. School issues are highly personal to every parent, and sometimes parents will react strongly. Some may even cross an appropriateness line. You must be able to listen to and offer respect to even the most angry and seemingly irrational constituent.
Do you have an open mind?
The issues presented to you within the school committee may be totally unexpected. You will need to research an issue quite a bit to come to understanding. Likewise, there may be an issue about which you have definite beliefs. Even then you must research and try to understand so as to be able to make the best informed decision. Coming into the position with a hard and fast mindset does service to no one, even if you keep your initial point-of-view in the end.
Do you have the time?
School committees require time. Lots of time, and the vast majority of the time is not in the regularly scheduled meetings. You will need to research issues, talk with administrators, faculty, parents, kids and other town leaders. There may be training in your state for new school committee members, as well as opportunities to get involved on the state level — all of which take time.
Do you have the tenacity
People are going to get angry with you. They will. Every parent thinks they know what's best — and they do — for their kids. As a school committee member you need to be able to look at and make decisions on a much larger scale, for many, many kids. This isn't going to go over well with some people. They will get nasty. And you must be able to stand by your actions every single day.
If you have the energy and enthusiasm to run for the school committee after reading this, then you should seriously consider increasing your level of public service to the schools. You may be just what they're looking for.
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