Voice Recognition

KSBA News Article

Executive Insights

Kerri Schelling

Public education has always been about “and”

Kentucky School Advocate
October 2022

By Kerri Schelling
KSBA Executive Director

I had the privilege of participating in the 2022 Urban Boards Alliance Symposium held in Atlanta last month. I, along with nine local school board members and superintendents from Kentucky, joined hundreds of education leaders from across the country for the inaugural event of the recently formed Consortium of State School Boards Associations (COSSBA). The symposium dove deep into the topics of equity, student achievement barriers and student mental health, and offered attendees an impressive lineup of breakout and keynote presenters. One speaker in particular resonated with me.

During the opening session, Michael Thurman, CEO of DeKalb County, Georgia, discussed how people define themselves as either “this thing” or “that thing”. They’re in support of an issue or against the issue. It’s all or none. Us versus them. No matter how you want to fill in the blanks, you’ll likely describe two mutually exclusive options. At a time when people arguably need each other most, we’re more divided as a country than ever before. But what if we weren’t? Thurman posed a simple question: What if we embrace “and” and abandon “or”?

As a former member of the Georgia General Assembly, his point for improving the political climate was well made, but even after the session ended, I couldn’t shake his question. By the end of the day I realized why; politics aside, public education – and school board service – has always been about the “and”.

Public schools may have been created to teach reading, writing and arithmetic but they didn’t stop there. In addition to their original charge, today’s schools teach preschoolers and special needs students and gifted and talented students. They feed and transport. They monitor for abuse and neglect. They remediate and counsel and connect students and their families to wraparound services. They prepare students for college and careers and provide for their social and emotional well-being. The list of “ands” goes on and on.

Mandates and political whims can create unwelcome add-ons, while some worthwhile additions can be hard to achieve due to time, staffing or dollars. But the predominant theme for those who work within a school district – including those who govern it – is to embrace any “and” that is in the best interest of their students.

From the moment they are elected, school board members bring their own long lists of “ands” to their role: family member, significant other, caregiver, employee, volunteer, friend, taxpayer, just to name a few. Each role garners a unique perspective in how a board member can relate to other stakeholders and serves as valuable experience for those entrusted with governing the district. But juggling all these “ands” isn’t easy. Despite the challenge, school board members find ways to collaborate with their colleagues, looking for the “and” instead of the “or” to make sure their students and communities thrive.  

In a time where common ground seems harder and harder to find, I’m proud to work on behalf of members who are so fiercely committed to finding it.

P.S. – I encourage all KSBA members to engage with COSSBA. As a founding member of the organization, KSBA provides access to events, resources and a vast peer network to our members and their districts. Save the date for COSSBA’s Annual Conference, March 31 – April 2, 2023 in Tampa, Florida!

Print This Article
© 2024. KSBA. All Rights Reserved.