The second video in the New Jersey School Boards Association’s “Two Centuries of Service” series features two longtime board members from rural school districts.
Jay Wilson Hughes, who has served 46 years on the Elk Township Board of Education in Gloucester County; and Betty Wright, who has served 23 consecutive years as president of the Southampton Board of Education in Burlington County and 35 years overall, shared an array of insights with Ray Pinney, the NJSBA’s director of county activities and member engagement.
In the segment, the two longtime board members share the challenges of being a board member, what made them serve in the first place, and why they’ve continued to step up over the years.
“It was important to me to be involved in the community and to help give back to the community,” Wright said. “Those were pretty much the reasons. The pay is in the rewards – it’s not in dollars. That is something I think some people don’t realize.”
Hughes noted that his parents taught him to give back to the community, and as the oldest of three surviving children, he has done his best to live up to that ideal. As to the challenges of being a board member, he said one of the big ones is the community sometimes gets upset over something the board or superintendent cannot control.
He also had some advice for newer board members. “If you’ve got questions, you have a superintendent and a business administrator that you can ask questions of,” he said. “You also have board members that have been there longer who have had merely by the matter of time seen more than you have.”
Wright noted that to succeed as a board member, you must be a good listener. “And sometimes that is hard to do when people are yelling at you and so on,” she said.
As to why they continue to serve, both noted that after all these years, they still enjoy it.
“It is rewarding to know that I played just a small part in helping children have a better education or a good education – it just makes my heart feel good,” Wright said. “It’s not just about my children, it’s about everyone – the community, the whole thing.”
Recognizing School Board Members
The NJSBA launched its “Two Centuries of Service” series in honor of New Jersey’s 21st annual School Board Recognition Month.
The latest show follows the first episode in the series, which featured Jeffrey Fischer and Richard “Dick” C. Morris Jr., two longtime board members from the Manchester Regional High School Board of Education in Passaic County and the Alloway Township Board of Education in Salem County, respectively.
The last episode in the series will feature Rona McNabola, a longtime member of the Glen Rock Board of Education in Bergen County; and Eleanore Shaffer, a longtime member of the Kittatinny Regional Board of Education in Sussex County.
The three shows will all be added to NJSBA’s Education Matters category on YouTube and are intended to raise public awareness of the role and responsibilities of local boards of education members and to help school officials, particularly new ones, learn from their veteran peers.