I Got On Board and Here’s Why Others Should Too

John Tramontana

By John Tramontana, MASB Director of Communications, PR & Marketing

DashBoard, May 11, 2016

Excuses are easy to come by. We use them when we don’t finish our homework, when we don’t exercise enough, when we want to get out of seeing our in-laws. Far too often, excuses limit us from reaching our true potential.

I had been interested in board service for a few years, but never decided to run. I came up with all kinds of excuses. “I’m too new to the community. . .we’re having another baby. . .I work too much.” It wasn’t until there was an opening on the Dewitt Public Schools Board of Education, and I was encouraged to apply by a colleague, that I finally started to give it some real thought. After talking things over with my wife, I decided to throw my hat into the ring.

Out of 14 applicants, I was fortunate enough to have been unanimously selected for the position. I took my seat in February 2015 and have been serving since.

It has been a privilege to be a school board member. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, we often make difficult decisions. Yes, we’ve all had people yell at us at some point. But there are so many rewards that outweigh the challenges. I’m now actively engaged in the district my two daughters will soon be attending, I’m giving back to my community, and hopefully, I’m helping to make a difference in the education we provide our students. If that seat wouldn’t have become available, I might never have decided to run.

There are so many other people out there who are in similar situations. They’re interested in giving back, but the task of running for public office might be intimidating or overbearing. I used to work in the political arena. I learned that elections are often difficult and time-consuming. Door-knocking, fundraising, paperwork and much more. It can be tedious. Finding civic-minded, student-focused individuals isn’t always easy. But so much more is at stake when good people don’t run. Student achievement and the quality of education are threatened. An effective board can create positive outcomes in a district, while an ineffective board can be detrimental to student progress.

This isn’t an office for anyone with a specific agenda. It’s not a job that you can accomplish much as an individual. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself. It’s about collaboration and teamwork.

In the last school board election in 2014, nearly 10% of the available seats weren’t filed for at the filing deadline. As board members, it’s our job to combat that problem. It’s our job to elevate board service and show those in the community the importance of serving.

We all know someone who would be an ideal board member. It might be a relative, a friend or a neighbor. Have you talked to that person lately about board service? Have you encouraged him or her to run? MASB’s Get On Board campaign relies on people like us to find those folks.

And what about those of you who aren’t running for re-election this year? Have you worked with your superintendent and fellow board members to help find a replacement?

It’s time for all of us to start having those conversations. The filing deadline is July 26 and it will be here before we know it. The sooner we start identifying and recruiting those who have the potential to be effective board members, the better off our districts and students will be.

The Get on Board campaign is underway and we need your help! Resources have been posted on the MASB website and the list will continue to grow up until the filing deadline of July 26. There are materials on how to recruit, what makes an effective board member and even videos to help spark interest. Our Candidate’s Guide to School Board Elections also is available for purchase in our Online Store. Please encourage those you think would be a good fit for school board service to Get on Board!

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