Before you criticize School Board members, try talking with one

Serving on a school district’s Board of Education has never been a particularly attractive job. It is an unpaid position that requires a lot of time, navigating difficult decisions and listening to complaints. Fortunately, there are people who make the decision to run for this very important role for the right reasons.

We are living in a time when some people are full of anger over just about everything. Board members have become the targets of that anger, sometimes for decisions that are not even within their control. It is a shame to see what the public comment portion of many School Board meetings has turned into. In many communities, Boards had to adjourn their meetings due to the behavior of attendees, and there are also board members who have resigned because of the stress.

It is easy to sit on the sidelines and complain or to rant on social media. It is much more difficult when you are one of the seven people who have to make tough decisions. When a board is functioning properly, there is a great deal of consideration that goes into decisions. There is sometimes information that only board members are aware of and cannot legally disclose. There are laws and procedures that must be followed.

Board members sometimes vote in a way that they do not necessarily agree with personally because they see the big picture and understand the complexities. The loudest and the angriest community members are not always the majority, and even if they are, they are not always rational or correct.

In my time as a teacher, I would often encourage people who I knew to be rational, level-headed people to run for the School Board. In many cases, they would decline – after they stopped laughing. A lot of them wanted nothing to do with the headaches of being a board member, and who can blame them?

School districts will always need effective board members. But before you decide to run for a seat, I encourage you to talk with some board members about what the responsibility is like. Listen carefully to their responses. Understand that as a board member, you have no individual power. Your “power” exists when you come together and vote as one body. Ideally, your votes are not 4-3 or 5-2, but votes that show consensus. Ideally, you are an excellent listener, a reasonable person, and can see the big picture.

Now more than ever, those who choose to serve on Boards of Education, as well as other Boards, deserve a great deal of appreciation for their service. Thank you to all who volunteer your time to serve on Boards.

Dr. Craig R. Ortiz, Superintendent

Morris Community High School District 101