Karen, a Morris County board member came up to me after a recent Morris County meeting and with great passion, stated her objection to superintendent salary caps. Her reasoning came down to this “I am not looking for a good educational leader to lead my district. I want the best because our kids deserve the best. I want them to excel!”
You can quibble with Karen on her objection to the salary caps but there’s no denying Karen’s motives for her beliefs. She is dedicated public servant who is focused like a laser beam on improving the education her community’s students receive. She has a passion for public education.
This blog is not about superintendent salary caps, nor is it about Karen being a special board member, which she is. While Karen is special, she is not unique. In fact, most board members have that same passion for public education.
One of the benefits of my job is that for almost fifteen years I have had the opportunity to work closely with thousands of board members who, like Karen, are dedicated to the children of their community. Yet I would dare say that the perception that I have of board members is not the one the general public has.
While I should be accustomed to the passion that many board members display, for some reason I am always a bit surprised by it. While January is School Board Recognition month and everyone is passing resolutions and issuing proclamations honoring boards of education and board members can ‘feel the love’ this month, during the other eleven months of the year many board members don’t ‘feel the love.’
That’s the rub: We live and work in a world that seems to want to restrict and reduce the role of the local board of education. It seems that we are constantly defending our role as school board members from all directions. It is frustrating to defend yourself when you are volunteering your time and derive no material benefit from the position.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am as big a proponent of school board members as there is. You might say that’s because I work for the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA), but you’d have it backwards. The reason I work for NJSBA is because, like Karen and all of you, I have a passion for public education.
Yet even I am humbled by the dedication and passion that most board members display. It is amazing that we have so many people who not only volunteer so many hours, but often times have to make decisions that will anger some entity in the community.
You may have noticed that I have used the word “passion” in this eight times in this blog because for me it is the correct word. The only way I can describe why board members do what they do is by noting that they are not merely interested in public education, they are passionate about it. The dictionary defines passion as a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept. From what I can see most of the board members that I work with are very devoted to their responsibilities and I’d say they are passionate about education.
That is what School Board Recognition month is all about. It is not about one month, it about the devotion that more than 4800 board members show to their communities every day.
Working for the school board members in New Jersey is a privilege. I would like to thank all of you who serve on your local board of education for all you do. It makes my job as well as my colleagues’ job much more rewarding knowing that we are working for such dedicated people.
Yes, you may be recognized by local community groups, but please know that my colleagues at NJSBA admire and respect the work you do for New Jersey’s students twelve months a year.