“You’re on the school board? Why? Are you crazy?”
I expect that every person who has ever served as an elected school board trustee has received the same perplexed, stunned, and sometimes mocking inquiry. No doubt the question stems from the bad publicity that some school boards seem to invite, together with misperception that school board service is marked by contentious debates, endless meetings, irate parents, public controversy and harassing telephone calls.
I actually welcome these questions about my service (or more appropriately, statements/comments about my sanity) because it provides an opportunity to explain the role, purpose and motivation of school boards and individual trustees. In addition, those conversations allow me to discuss the accomplishments in our schools as well as the challenges and issues facing public education.
Let me remind you about several important points concerning your Richardson ISD Board of Trustees. We are seven RISD residents, elected at-large, serving three-year terms, and receiving no monetary compensation. We meet in public session, and citizens are invited to attend any of our meetings (unless they are closed pursuant to state law). The only person we hire is the superintendent of schools.
We are responsible for establishing a tax rate and approving a budget. We develop policies for the district, but we do not micromanage or make day-to-day operational decisions. We will listen to your concerns and complaints, but we will most likely refer you to the staff person who can best address your issue (and then follow-up to make sure that staffer has been responsive to you).
In addition to these statutory and formal duties, we attend numerous school and community events and meetings throughout our 38-square mile district. Each trustee is involved in community organizations, and we also are active in the Texas Association of School Boards, the National School Boards Association, the Council of Urban Boards of Education, and the North Texas Association of School Boards. We have direct and frequent contact with our national, state and city elected leaders and their staffs.
I have the highest respect and admiration for my fellow trustees: Kim Caston, Karen Ellis, Lanet Greenhaw, Kim Quirk and David Tyson. (As you know, Lake Highlands resident Carol Kent was recently elected to the Texas House of Representatives, and you will elect her successor in May.) They are friends and colleagues with whom I am proud to serve. We strive to blend our passions, talents, abilities and opinions to best govern your school district. We come from different backgrounds and bring unique perspectives to work toward common goals that we have established.
People mistakenly suggest that school board service is a “thankless” job. We do not serve to seek thanks or even attention. Rather, we serve to represent our community and maintain the excellence that is the hallmark and legacy of Richardson ISD.
We are actually “thanked” for our service in ways you may not imagine. The thanks come in myriad forms, such as seeing the joy on the faces of elementary students as they perform in assemblies; experiencing the incredible talent of our fine arts students; observing the masterful teaching in our classrooms; being led in the Pledge of Allegiance by proud students; witnessing the thrills of victory and agony of defeat as our athletic teams compete; receiving smiles and hugs from young friends as I hand them a diploma.
By the way, January was “School Board Recognition Month” in Texas. School board members are the largest group of publicly elected officials in the state, and the districts they represent serve more than 4.5 million public school students.
Thank you for your continued support of Richardson ISD. It is an honor and privilege to serve you.
See you at school.