By Kerri Schelling
KSBA Executive Director
I love to talk. Anyone who knows me would likely agree – including my own mother who’s mentioned more times than I’d like that letting me play with a plastic telephone as a toddler may have been a mistake. I was the student in class that teachers loved when it was time for class participation and that they tolerated during “quiet time,” so perhaps it is no surprise that I ended up pursuing a career where teaching, training and talking were a must. But while I learned how to use my words at an early age, I didn’t find my voice until I was much older. It took many years before I understood how powerful words could be when spoken by someone who truly believes in what they are saying.
I don’t think I’m the only one who learned this lesson late. Idioms like “penny for your thoughts” and “put your two cents in” send a clear message that one’s thoughts, ideas and opinions are not considered valuable. While I wholeheartedly disagree with this sentiment as a rule, I can’t deny that sometimes talk IS cheap. Unfortunately, we all know of instances where people say things they don’t mean, go back on what they’ve promised or say things that simply aren’t true. Most of us are familiar with the children’s nursery rhyme about sticks and stones, assuring us words can never hurt us – when the reality is that they can. But when people find their voice and use it wisely and thoughtfully, their words can inspire, influence and transform. Words are immensely powerful and can be an incredible advocacy tool for those willing to embrace the issues and heed the call to action.
School board members have the opportunity to use this power every day. As locally elected representatives of their communities, they speak for and with their constituents and are the voice of the students at the board table. They advocate for public education because they know its value and are committed to telling the story. They share the good news of their district and are willing to have tough conversations when necessary. But what happens when the tough conversations become more frequent, the issues become more complex and the stakes become too high? What happens when things don’t get better, despite repeated efforts? Even the most dedicated board members can reach a point where they feel they aren’t being heard and may start to question if it makes any difference at all. My answer to that is always, “Yes, it does!” Silence may be a virtue, but to paraphrase Edmund Burke, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to say nothing.”
I believe that doing something always trumps doing nothing and the great news is that none of us has to do it alone. When all school board members add their voice to those of their board team, they can make a tremendous difference in their community. And when all our school boards combine their voices, they can make a tremendous difference in the Commonwealth. KSBA believes that the school board voice is critical in every conversation about public education, whether it’s at the local, state or national level, and works tirelessly to leverage the power of our citizen leaders. Working together, our voices form a chorus that cannot be easily ignored. As we get ready to usher in a new year that may be more challenging that most, I encourage you to keep up the good work, harness the power of your convictions, and most importantly …..
Let your voice be heard!