By Durward Narramore
Buried beneath all of the attention on last month’s primary election for seats in Congress, the General Assembly and a variety of partisan local political offices was this little news item – we already have competitive races for boards of education in Kentucky.
OK, as of this writing, there are only two contested school board races and a few dozen candidates filed. But with more than half of the state’s local board seats up for election Nov. 4, a lot of people will be making up their mind between now and then – candidates and electorate alike.
This November’s routine local ballot will contain two county board seats and, where applicable, three independent seats. Factor in the seats for the 39 board vacancies filled since the 2012 election, and there will be nearly 450 school board positions up for election five months from now. The next 60 days leading up to the Aug. 12 filing deadline may be the most crucial of all, because that’s when incumbents with expiring terms will decide whether to offer their service for another four years (or if appointees, whether to complete a term).
We already know of several incumbents who have announced they won’t be seeking re-election. And with 21 years of board service and counting, I can certainly understand. You’ve made a contribution to your community and its kids. Maybe it is time for someone else to step forward and earn the adulation of parents, students, staff and others for decisions like raising taxes, making up snow days, realigning staffing allocations and all the other fun stuff that goes with board service.
But as much as I would encourage a focused, devoted sitting board member to stand for another term, I want to ask those who decide to step aside not to rest with that decision.
Every election cycle, somewhere between seven and 12 local board seats fail to draw a single candidate. Sometimes this happens with a small independent district. Sadly, sometimes it occurs because of confusion as to when an incumbent’s term is up (appointees take note – confirm your term with the county board of elections).
I suspect that there is another reason for no-candidate or even one-candidate elections when the incumbent isn’t running: No one actively talked to people with the right intentions – the right “heart,” if you will – about running for the board.
Who can better explain board service than a board member? You know the stresses of the post, the tough decisions. You also know the joys of seeing student success and of recognizing staff excellence. And you know what can happen when the one-issue critics come on board. You understand the value of a board/superintendent team: not always 100 percent in agreement but, hopefully, always 100 percent focused on the child and the teacher in the classroom.
So as much as I encourage my fellow incumbents to give board service another go, I even more strongly urge that you talk about the real role of the school board to prospective successors.
You know the skill set, the dedication that’s needed. Do what you can to help see that your hard work is carried on by a new member with that necessary eye on the target of success for every student.
— Narramore also serves as chairman of the Jenkins Independent Board of Education