For School Boards, It's What They Do, Not What They Say That Counts

Oakley Union School District--Google Maps

Oakley Union School District–Google Maps

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes,” President Ronald Reagan, 1984.

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it. Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.” Donald Trump, 2005

“It’s really unfortunate that they want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back,” Lisa Brizendine, Oakley Union Elementary School Board president, 2021.

Yup, those hot mics will catch you. Especially during this time of Zoom meetings, you better know what is being broadcast versus what is in the sanctity of your own private group.

But as a former member and president of the Board of Education of District 125, solely comprised of Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, I sort of get it. Most people run for election to a school board not for some sort of ego trip, not for the perks (minimal) or monetary benefits (none) but to give something to their community. They spend long winter nights hearing about curriculum and the latest ‘new math” philosophy, they spend months negotiating teacher contracts, they look under rocks for the next up-and-coming superintendent superstar, who their district probably won’t have enough tax revenue to afford, anyway.

Sometimes they deal with problems of their own making, such as poor hiring, disciplinary processes, or financial planning. Sometimes it can be unequal enforcement of district boundaries or giving an athlete too much leeway. But in general, school board members follow one star–to give the students in their district the best possible education under the circumstances in which they find themselves.

And then COVID-19 comes and turns everything on its head. Follow the science, or follow the old president, or follow the new one? Think first about the students, or about the teachers, or about the parents? Or put it all in a blender and hope it turns out for the best?

So sometimes you vent. Let’s be honest. Doctors bitch about their patients, lawyers mock their clients, presidents fantasize about blowing up countries. And sometimes school board members say things they shouldn’t–but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t trying to do what is right. Judge them by what they accomplish not the sometimes foolish things they say.

Speaking of school board accomplishments, Steve Frost, Fei Shang, and Gary Gorson, three Stevenson School Board incumbents, are running as a slate for re-election in the spring election. I served with Steve and Gary, and marvel at the wonderful stewardship they have provided for the district. If you live within the bounds of District 125, please give their StevensonExcellence slate your vote on April 6th.

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