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School board race should draw local attention

August 27, 2009

They oversee thousands of students and millions of dollars.

They develop policies, create goals and collectively make a standing affect on Iowa's educational system - they are the members of our school board. Voters will head to the polls Sept. 8 to decide which men and women will serve our school districts. This year, the election holds more weight than traditional elections because the public will elect their local school boards only every other year for longer four-year terms.

We believe the public should make education a priority by paying attention to our local campaigns and by heading to the polls on voting day.

We encourage voters to learn more about local candidates. The Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce will host a candidate forum at noon on Friday at the Fisher Community Center. This is a great way to start exploring which candidates are right for the Marshalltown School Board.

Moreover, we agree with the recommendation of the Iowa Association of School Board, which suggests these basic characteristics in candidates, with the idea of electing effective board members:

n They must have a laser-like focus on improving achievement for all students. Many schools are setting higher expectations for student learning. For our state to remain a leader in public education system, improving achievement is key. Board members play an integral role in ensuring each district is able to prioritize goals and plans for improvement.

n They act with professionalism and integrity when monitoring district finances. School boards are the fiscal stewards of taxpayer dollars. Especially in the tight budget times we face, it is critical that board members act responsibly in regard to finances.

n They understand the board's roles and responsibilities. Boards are elected to set policy and direction, not to run the districts themselves. Instead, the board ensure the district has competent management in the superintendent.

n They work well as a member of a team. Look for board candidates who respect differing views and who also understand individual members have no authority outside the actions taken at the board meeting, by the board, acting as a corporate body. Candidates should also be good communicators and listeners and act with fairness and consistency.

n They can commit the time and energy required to be effective. Board members must have a commitment to public service, which requires hours of attending meetings, taking phone calls, listening to constituents and visiting schools. They also must have time to invest in their own learning process when it comes to understanding societal and educational trends.



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