Local elections historically get short shrift from most the community, despite the fact that decisions made by our school boards and city councils impact us as much, if not more, than our state and national legislation. I’ve always been especially drawn to our local school board race. Having been an educator in our district, as well as sending six children from our household to our local public schools, I’m acutely aware of the far reaching impact board rulings can have for years on district educators and children.
Of the two candidates in our district’s contest, one of them appears to have credentials that would make him exceptionally qualified to serve on our school board. He is a distinguished teacher and education advocate, having received awards and recognition for his work, including a Chamber of Commerce’s Teacher of the Year award. He is young, currently completing graduate work in education, with plans to obtain a doctorate. I am especially drawn to his opposition to the current push for using public funds for private schools and his knowledge of the damage being done by decades of high stakes standardized testing, as these causes are also passions of mine. For all these reasons, I will vote for him, but I’m pretty sure he won’t win. Why? He is an openly transgender man.
I don’t personally know either candidate, though campaign workers for both have rung my doorbell, passing out fliers and touting the reasons their candidate would be the better choice. The opposing candidate is by far more typical of most school board members - a lifelong local resident, businessman and concerned parent of children in schools here. And I am sure he will be a dedicated board member. But something his campaign worker said to me just rubbed me the wrong way and cemented the decision I had already made. He told me his candidate’s opponent has an “agenda that we just don’t agree with.” I knew what he meant, and I didn’t comment – just took his flyer and bid him adieu.
I am sure part of the first candidate’s agenda does involve addressing the struggles marginalized children have in the classroom. His platform acknowledges and emphasizes the importance of kindness and character development in children. But I am sure each of those who run for local political office have an agenda that is very personal to them, and most of them want to be a force for change. Who in his right mind would take on that kind of responsibility, enduring countless hours of mind numbing budgetary considerations and vociferous speechifying from concerned community members? Who enjoys donating untold unpaid hours studying the literature related to the latest controversial issue that must be considered? Who would subject himself to hate mail and phone calls, heated social media gossip, and constant interruptions in public from people who want to push their own personal itinerary?
During my own career, I’ve been appalled at the election of a school board candidate whose personal vendetta was to run the superintendent out of town, and having accomplished that, set himself up as a little dictator working feverishly to sway the entire board to his preferences. I’ve known of school board members whose push for policy change obviously stemmed from their own children’s struggles. I’ve seen newly elected members blatantly hijack the school board meeting, disregarding established parliamentary procedure and creating chaos in the decision-making process. But I’ve also known a lot of people who have served with objectivity and dedication.
As voters, we can’t root out all hidden agendas. But we must do our homework and get to know the candidate and his or her platform as best we can. In the case of a school board member, that is, ideally, experience, educational expertise, and most of all passion for educating every child. I have done that, and I will vote. May the best man win.
Post script: Of course you know who won...This is still Texas, after all