Where are the candidates? In Multnomah County in the upcoming May election there are 25 school board positions up for election. As of less than one week before filing deadline, in 15 of those races there are either zero or one candidates for the open seat! Now, not ever having been a school board member, my impression is that this is one of the most difficult and often thankless jobs out there. Everyone cares about education and many people think they know why things aren’t as good as we as our community would hope them to be. That said, school board members are exceptionally important decision-makers and leaders for our kids, schools, and communities.
Not only is the position hard, but elections are expensive – so we should be happy to have one candidate and then not have to endure a heated and costly election, right? I know some of the folks running for the open seats. I can’t imagine they’ll be too happy to have me encourage competition, but we need the dialog. Our schools are underfunded and are facing difficult and momentous decisions that directly affect our kids and communities. We need to have meaningful discourse about our schools, who will lead them, and how we will focus our resources to be most effective.
There are no open school board seats in my zone, so I can safely write this from the sidelines.
- Should we, as a community, have a discussion about the job of school board? Should we change these positions to be a paid job, much like a city council person, rather than a volunteer?
- Socio-economically, how would anyone ever be able to consider being on the school board if they have one or more jobs or an employer who won’t give them the flexibility to volunteer for another full time job?
- When we talk about equity in our schools, it seems fundamentally flawed to have a leadership system that for all intents and purposes excludes so many of the people who care so deeply about our schools.