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Consider The Kids

September 7, 2017
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

Next Tuesday is School Board election day across the state of Iowa. Here in Palo Alto County, there are contested elections in all three of our public school districts. In our local districts, a mix of incumbent board members wishing to continue to serve have filed for re-election to their positions, and there are newcomers who feel that they can bring new ideas and enthusiasm to their local school boards.

We are fortunate in that respect that there are individuals who are interested enough in the youth of our communities and our rural areas. Those individuals are making a commitment to sacrifice, should they win election to a school board seat. What is that sacrifice?

First and foremost, being a school board member is not going to pay one penny. The only "pay" that a board member receives is the satisfaction in knowing that they are doing their very best to provide the best possible educational opportunity for the youth of our area.

To provide that opportunity, the school board member must become familiar with school budgeting not an easy task. School budgets are dependent on many factors State Aid is incredibly important, and every year when our Lawmakers in Des Moines miss their Constitutional deadline to set allowable growth for the state's school districts, those local board members often have to make hard decisions. School Administrators have to develop options for programs based on available funding, and when the State Aid doesn't pan out, sometimes, it's a board that has to vote to cut a program or perhaps eliminate a staff position.

The financial duties of a board aren't just limited to State Aid Physical Plant and Equipment Levies and Instructional Support Levies are just a couple of levies that school boards must consider. Should a district choose to enter into bonding or borrowing for construction or renovations of facilities, the board has to evaluate all of the considerations, such as interest, pay-back and of course, "selling" the additional financial need to the patrons of the district, who pay the local taxes that help the districts operate.

Add in the need to understand academic requirements, labor relations, public relations and, in some cases, being a parent of school-age children; being a school board member isn't just going to a meeting every month.

What other sacrifices do school board members make? There will be sacrifices of time, to be sure, when dealing with budgets, negotiations, buildings or purchasing a new bus. Like any elected position, somebody will always find fault with an elected body's decisions on some issue. A board member can receive phone calls both for and against an issue or situation in a school, and yes, a board member can "catch an earful" on the street, in the grocery store or even in church on Sunday if someone is not happy about something that's happened in school.

Yes, it takes a special kind of person to be a school board member.

Most importantly, that person must genuinely care about our youth. Time and time again, the adage "our youth are our future" is used in the educational field. Those who work in the classroom, teaching our youth are the first line in this ongoing endeavor. The administrators, support staff members and the school board all fit into place, creating that educational community that is constantly looking for ways to make learning an adventure and more enticing to our youth.

A school board member must understand that education is a field that is constantly changing and adapting to fit our ever-changing society. Being willing to "think outside the box" and empower our educators to embrace new technology and methods in the classroom is vital.

But above all, a school board member must always remember that they are serving their fellow district patrons - the people who cast the ballots to elect them to office. Should a person be elected, they cannot go into office with any kind of personal agenda instead, they must be willing to hear all sides of an issue, evaluate the supporting information for requests or issues, and take the appropriate, responsible action that best serves not only the needs of the students, but of the district staff, administration and the taxpayers.

When you go to the polls on Tuesday, Sept. 12, be an informed voter. Learn about the candidates you are being asked to support. If you have questions on where to vote, contact the Palo Alto County Auditor's Office at 712-852-2924.

But above all, do what's right for the kids.



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