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What's it like to serve on the school board?

Updated: May 12


This month, I'm sharing more of my perspective on what it's like to serve on the school board. (Last month I gave you my two cents on the time commitment required for board service.)


You get to be part of something special. LLESD is pretty darn awesome. Our students are curious and joyful and our staff are top-notch. As a board member, I love working closely with the superintendent and district leadership team. These wonderful human beings have dedicated their life's work to supporting and uplifting students. Serving alongside them is a good volunteer gig.



You become a student again.

I love learning, and being a trustee has offered endless opportunities to explore new subjects. Most trustees have a steep learning curve when it comes to understanding the complexites of the public-education system. In other words, just because you went to school doesn't mean you know how to govern a school. Board service requires humility and a growth mindset.



You're in the public eye.

As an elected official, I'm often recognized around the neighborhood and am conscious of the extra eyes (and ears) on me in public. This is especially true at board meetings, where we literally have an audience and our deliberations are recorded for posterity. Even the look on one's face during a board meeting can become the subject of speculation. Being in the spotlight has made me extra thoughtful about what I say and how.



Your board hat is almost always on.

Trustees don't always have the luxury of removing our board hats when we're out in the community. For example, I might be wearing my parent hat when I'm talking to a teacher, but that teacher often perceives me first and foremost as a board member. As a result, my relationships with parents and district staff has shifted a bit.



People sometimes complain.

Whether it's a friend whose child is having an issue in class or a neighbor who wants to opine on a story they read about LLESD in the paper, board members regularly hear from our constituents. We have to balance good-listening skills with staying in our lane and referring folks to staff for more information or to resolve an issue when appropriate. While most people are very respectful, a few do require a thicker skin.



It's different than serving on other boards.

State transparency laws ensure the board of trustees conducts the people's business in public, but these rules also make school board work slow and formal. Between meetings, trustees have to be vigilant about not discussing any topic of district business with more than one other board member. I wrote about the wonkiness of this arrangement in School Boards 101.



The work is fulfilling.

In a world that feels increasingly out of control, having agency over a little slice of the universe (in the words of my local school-board buddy), scratches the itch many of us have to make the world a better place. 


Spending one's volunteer time supporting public education is satisfying and important work. For those with the time and temperament to serve, I highly recommend it.




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