My First Year as a School Board Member

Joel Gerring

By Joel Gerring, MASB Assistant Legal Counsel

DashBoard, June 29, 2016

Becoming a member of my local school board has given me a new appreciation for how difficult a leadership position can be; but we need good leaders now more than ever. I was thrilled to be part of some very unique initiatives during my first term and I’m going to be running this fall to keep my seat because I really want to see those through. Many of the decisions we’re making involve long-term goals, which really places a premium on board continuity.

Make no mistake, school board service can be difficult, especially these days, as communities are demanding more while funding is not what it once was. It can sometimes seem like a thankless job given the challenges and the time commitment. However, it is precisely these realities that illustrate why now, more than ever, local school boards need steady, even-minded leadership.

It has been so rewarding for me to collaborate with six other caring, capable people, all working toward the same goal—making our district a wonderful place for children to learn and grow. Watching my fellow board members deliberate on so many issues with great care and honest enthusiasm is what really opened my eyes to the “big picture” of what our role is as a school board. We are stewards. We do our best to hire great people and then we let those people do their job. We make decisions, sometimes very difficult ones, with the health and well-being of the students as the overriding consideration. It takes devotion and a strong sense of community to serve in this capacity. Individuals motivated by self-interest, or those we might call “one-issue” candidates, tend not to have the perseverance necessary to make a lasting difference.

Knowing that I am doing something to make a difference in my community, that I am being seen as an individual who is ready, willing and able to sacrifice his time and energy to embrace the challenges that come with board service, has been a reward in and of itself. Community members do see my service and thank me for it. Of course, it isn’t this recognition alone that makes school board service worthwhile, but the gratitude of the community does help keep you going when the tough decisions begin to take their toll.

Being a member of my local school board has been a challenging, but satisfying experience. While fiscal constraints have made board service more demanding, the advances in teaching techniques and innovations in learning technology have also made it an extremely exciting time to be involved in education. I’m proud to be serving as part of a group of civic-minded individuals who give back; not because they have to, but because they are willing to.

Editor’s Note: Joel sits on the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education.

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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