I have been asked a number of recurring questions about my service on the RISD Board of Trustees since I was first elected to this position in May 2000. For example, “Why would you possibly want this job?” “What do you really do as a trustee?” “How much do you get paid for your school board work?” And then there are the fill-in-the-blank questions, such as “Did the State of Texas really require RISD to … ?” “Does my son/daughter have to … ?” “What do you think about … ?”
Believe it or not, I welcome your questions. These inquiries allow me the chance to inform people what trustees do and what we do not do. Your questions provide an opportunity for me to perform one of my key public roles in RISD — to confirm and dispel rumors. Most importantly, I am grateful that you are interested in our public schools, that you care about the education of our community’s children, and that you are willing to lend your resources and opinions to our collective efforts.
This “new” space for me in the Advocate seems like the perfect place to answer some of your questions. I hope that this expanded space will allow me to provide broader and deeper comments, insights, highlights, concerns and opinions.
Let’s start with School Board 101. School boards in Texas usually have seven members, all of who must live in the school district. People mistakenly refer to me as “their” trustee or “the Lake Highlands” trustee. However, RISD trustees are elected “at large,” and we represent all of RISD, not just a single area. I encourage you to “meet” all of YOUR trustees at risd.org. School board elections are non-partisan, and we are elected for three-year terms (there is no limit to the number of terms someone may serve).
School board trustees serve on a volunteer basis. People comment frequently that “your school board work is really a thankless job.” Wrong! There may not be a stipend or paycheck, but the “compensation” for our service is frequent and more personal. January was “School Board Recognition Month,” and we again were humbled and honored by the thanks we received from across the district. The “reward” for our work occurs when we visit schools and witness caring teachers and talented students. And, of course, the ultimate joy in our service is handing diplomas to RISD graduates who are full of promise, hope and energy.
RISD trustees refrain from micro-managing the district. Many people are surprised to learn that school boards hire only one person, the superintendent. In fact, we spent the entire fall semester gathering your input and searching for the right person to serve as RISD’s next superintendent. Those efforts resulted in the hiring of Dr. David Simmons, an experienced superintendent, lifelong educator, devoted family man, and tireless advocate for all children. Please help welcome him to our community as he visits schools and organizations.
The other main duties of the school board involve policies and budget. The board establishes district-wide policies and then supports RISD staff as those policies are implemented. The budget process includes setting the tax rate and making tough decisions about how to most effectively utilize limited resources. These areas of responsibility require us to be in constant contact with government officials in Austin and Washington, D.C., because so much of what is done in RISD is mandated by decision-makers elsewhere.
Throughout our service, we RISD trustees keep our eyes on the RISD vision statement, goals and core beliefs. We value the word “trustee” … you have entrusted us with resources of finances and young lives. In return, we strive to be servant leaders who work for the benefit of our entire community.
That first question, the “why?” For me, my school board service is based upon my passion for public education and my responsibility to serve others. Thank you for your continued trust, encouragement, and support.
See you at school.