My three boys were young and not even all in school yet when I first ran for school board in Fort Gibson. I knew that over the next two decades, the lessons they learned, the friends they made and the teachers they encountered would shape them and their futures in ways I couldn’t yet fully imagine. I was right.
Oklahoma has about 2,700 locally elected school board members. We come from different walks of life, but many who serve are just like me:
• They believe in the transformative power of public education to improve lives, families and communities.
• They believe in servant leadership.
• They believe public education is an investment.
• They want for all children what they want for their own.
If this describes you, it might be time to put your name on a ballot. The filing period to run for hundreds of local school board seats in communities across the state is Monday through Wednesday. I hope many of my fellow Oklahomans will consider this opportunity to invest their time and energy in work that matters deeply for our children and our communities.
There are legal standards candidates must meet, but the most important requirement won’t appear on any form you fill out at the county election board. What’s truly needed is a willingness to serve with a single-minded agenda: What’s best for the future of children?
School boards benefit from a diverse team of leaders who have different perspectives, experiences, voices and knowledge. We need board members who have experience, historical knowledge and an understanding of what it means to serve effectively on a school board. Boards also need new people with fresh ideas.
The primary responsibilities of board members are to craft policy, hire and oversee the superintendent who serves as CEO, and approve a budget that reflects the mission, vision and goals of the district. Within those big-picture responsibilities, a board makes thousands of decisions that affect the everyday lives of children and families. We decide what days and for how many hours children need to be in school when we approve school calendars. Our actions directly or indirectly affect what books your child reads, what songs they sing, how long they play at recess, and ultimately, what they learn.
The work is hard and not always popular. You’ll answer to your family, friends and neighbors when the board makes decisions they don’t like. But I promise you’ll also experience joy and hope in witnessing students grow, overcome obstacles and pursuing their futures.
Education has the power to improve lives in so many ways. It decreases poverty. It improves public health. It improves families. It strengthens communities. I’ve also witnessed education create community, bringing people from different backgrounds together for a common cause.
Oklahoma children need adults willing to invest in public education with more than their pocketbooks. They need leaders who will invest time and energy into shaping their future. For more information on running for school board, visit the Oklahoma State School Boards Association website at www.ossba.org/getonboard.
Scott Abbott is a rancher and insurance agent who serves as board clerk for the Fort Gibson Public Schools Board of Education. He also serves as president-elect of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.