I’ve sometimes heard that serving the community as a board member can be a thankless job.

But I don’t like to think in those terms: I prefer to think about all the tremendous rewards that continue to feed my passion for board service after more than 17 years on the Montville Township Board of Education.

Everyone has a reason for initially seeking a position on a board of education, but you learn pretty quickly that it takes a board majority to get things done. Members must move in the same direction to achieve desired goals for students and the community. 

I won’t deny that being a good board member is hard work. You must strive to understand alternative viewpoints, and sometimes you must make unpopular decisions. For anyone who has served on a board for any length of time, you’ve no doubt been in a position where you’ve felt like you can’t make anyone happy.

At such moments, you may question why you decided to serve on the board in the first place. We’ve all been there. But the truth is the rewards of board service make it all worth it.

Whenever you’re feeling a little down, think about that board meeting where you had a nervous group of fifth graders visit to tell the board about their wonderful new character education program.

Or, maybe you had a group of high school students honored at a board meeting for their selection as ShopRite Stars, which is an awards program that recognizes active and engaged high school students.

Perhaps you were invited to read to a class of first graders on Dr. Seuss Day, or maybe you enjoyed a family night out attending a middle school musical performance.

For me, the most meaningful moment is attending the high school graduation ceremony. Not only is graduation an important milestone in the lives of these young adults, but it is also the conclusion of a 13-year journey and the beginning of a new one. Listening to “Pomp and Circumstance,” watching the seniors walk across the stage to shake hands with the superintendent and receive their diplomas, seeing all the pictures being taken with family, friends and staff, makes it all deeply gratifying and definitely worthwhile.

Yes, sometimes we all take public education for granted, including your hard work. But never let that make you believe that your board service – and the schools, the staff and most importantly the students you represent – are not worth it. More than any other elected official, you directly impact children’s lives in positive ways.

We have a great public school system in New Jersey, and we must continue to work hard so that it stays that way. We must continue to celebrate the moments that make serving on a board of education so worthwhile. 

I am deeply honored to have been elected president of the New Jersey School Boards Association, and I will assist you in any way I can in keeping our schools great. I will make myself available to all our members to ensure we help our children succeed, and I will do my very best to honor the trust that has been placed in me.