I’ve noticed articles about school board activities in different parts of the nation. As I have thought about things, I’m tempted to alter Clauswitz’ quote – “Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult”
I came on to Trego’s school board when we had 4 ANB – that’s an abbreviation for Average Number Belonging. It’s defined in 20-9-311 in Montana Codes Annotated. It means we were just about out of business. A couple years later, we have the school back in business, but even the simplest thing is difficult. Here’s where you learn to count students and figure out funding.
Deciding what to do as a school board member is very simple – but the way a school functions makes the simplest of things difficult. I’ve developed a priority list to help make decisions.
- Is this decision in the student’s best interest?
- Is this decision in the school’s best interest?
- Is this decision in the community’s best interest?
- Is this decision in the employees’ best interest?
- Is this decision in the board and board members’ best interest?
The students’ best interests come first. My own priorities are that learning needs to be enjoyable and that academics comes first among student activities. I see room for athletics and special events – but those are secondary. A simple thing, made difficult by conflicting or undecided priorities.
The school, as a local institution, and building comes second. Our school at Trego was built in the mid-sixties, to Corps of Engineers standards. It has lasted a half-century without a fund dedicated to a planned maintenance schedule. I’ve seen century-old schools in good shape in their second century, and 50 year-old buildings demolished due to poor maintenance. Our facility was built by an earlier generation, and needs to be maintained for the future. A simple thing – but the building has no voice and maintenance can always be put off until later.
The Trego community and residents who fund the school come third. Don’t take this out of context because the staff comes fourth. If they aren’t working for those first three priorities, we have a problem. Teachers, janitor, cook, clerk, bus driver are all needed. This is the personnel management spot, where conflict and strife combine to make even the simple things difficult.
Board members individually and as a group have the lowest priority. We are unpaid and ideally the positions should be sought as a civic responsibility.
Everything that comes before your school board is very simple – but even the simplest thing is difficult.