Opinion

The unsung heroes of our school district

By TERRY LINDQUIST

Gov. Christine Gregoire has proclaimed January “School Board Appreciation Month.” In her proclamation, the governor notes that school boards are the heart and soul of the public education governance system in our state. The 295 locally elected school boards in Washington serve more than 1 million students and employ more than 100,000 people, and their combined budget is more than $6 billion. School directors are directly accountable to the citizens in their districts and serve as a vital link between members of the community and their schools.

I would like to take this time to explain what the job of the school board is in the Vashon Island School District.

We have five elected school board members, each elected for a rotating four-year term. Our current school board members are:

• Dan Chasan, local attorney and

writer;

• Bob Hennessey, board chair and strategic adviser in the Seattle Public Utilities director’s office;

• Kathy Jones, the board’s legislative representative and a program manager for Honeywell;

• John Osborne, software engineer for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and NOAA’s National Center for Tsunami Research; and

• Laura Wishik, board vice chair and director of the Seattle City Attorney’s Environmental Protection Section.

Among the many responsibilities

these dedicated public servants have are:

• Determining the vision for the school district;

• Setting the local standards for what students should learn and be able to do;

• Determining

which local assessments are needed to demonstrate that the district is achieving its goals and students are learning;

• Being accountable for the outcomes of their decisions and actions;

• Deciding how to align the district’s human and financial resources;

• Creating a climate of safe and orderly classrooms;

• Developing collaborative relationships to solve common problems; and

• Questioning, examining, revising, refining and revisiting in order to assure continuous progress.

As this listing of a few of the school board’s responsibilities suggests, it’s a job that requires an unselfish giving of time and service. The meetings and school functions to attend are endless. In addition, there are always reports, agendas, proposals and other information they need to read and study before making a number of difficult decisions.

In order to serve the community and school district in an efficient, responsive and accountable way, at a retreat on Jan. 5 the board set the following goals:

• Develop a sustainable budget;

• Support teaching and learning;

• Complete a capital facilities plan;

• Improve board performance; and

• Increase its communication efforts.

In many ways, the job of being a school board member is a thankless one. The pressure is enormous and it is a volunteer effort.

So why would anyone agree to run, get elected and serve on a school board? I think it is because they believe deeply in the value of public education and its role in a civil society. I have had the opportunity to work with nearly 260 school board members over the course of my career, and I have not yet worked for a board of directors that individually and collectively did not do its best to create a system that serves students in the best way possible. In a phrase, they care about kids. I have heard that phrase many times from our current board.

There are many ways you can help your school board. Please be involved with our three schools. Offer your guidance, advice and counsel. Attend board meetings. Demand accountability, and help them collaborate to solve common problems.

We can and should be an outstanding school system and among the best public education has to offer. The board can’t do it alone, however; they need you — your help and support.

Please show them your appreciation during January and beyond and use some of these ideas to show our five wonderful school board members that they are appreciated throughout the year.

— Terry Lindquist is the acting superintendent of the Vashon Island School District.

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