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KSBA News Article

Executive Insights

Kerri Schelling

Bad bulb moments

Kentucky School Advocate
December 2021

By Kerri Schelling
KSBA Executive Director

I learned early in life that there was more to Thanksgiving weekend than giving thanks for family, friends and food. It meant that once the leftovers were put away and football games were watched, we would begin our annual pilgrimage to the dark recesses of the attic, basement or garage to retrieve boxes of décor and a lifetime of accumulated holiday-themed treasures. In my family, holiday decorating wasn’t complete until our home was ablaze with lights hung from the roof, wrapped around porch railings and outlining windows, doors and bushes. A task that came with its own tradition: untangling endless knots that “somehow” occurred while they were in storage and hoping at the end of the day there would be light.

If you’ve been a participant or spectator to putting up holiday lights (before the modern improvements in light string technology), you remember the frustration of flipping the switch only to find they are not working. Our time and efforts likely spoiled by a single tiny bulb. I remember my parents meticulously checking every light for the one loose or broken bulb that was preventing the whole strand from shining bright. The ordeal could bring our plans – and our festive spirits – to a cold winter’s halt.

Another lesson I learned early on is that much like strings of lights, people have “bad bulb moments.” Times when, for one reason or another, we just aren’t working as well as we could or should; we snap at a loved one because we’re upset about something at work, we don’t take the time to show much-deserved appreciation, we break a promise because it becomes inconvenient to keep. For school board members, bad bulb moments might take the form of not preparing adequately for a board meeting, frequently missing meetings for other activities or being disrespectful when a board discussion or vote doesn’t go our way. Without a doubt a bad bulb moment – even an unintentional one – can temporarily derail the work of a board team. But just like with a string of lights, if we can identify what the challenge is and commit to fixing it, bad bulb moments can be overcome. With regular maintenance, most can even be prevented.

Like our holiday lights, board members must handle their responsibilities with care. Board service is not something to ball up and throw in a box to set aside between meetings. On the contrary, maintaining team cohesion and the public’s trust is not seasonal. It requires commitment 365 days a year; a commitment that follows you into grocery stores, fills your email inbox and may even influence the timing of your family vacations.

For all the joy they may ultimately bring us, the holidays can be a chaotic time. Between the shopping, decorating and gatherings of family and friends, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason we do it all in the first place. Our holiday spirit is tested. The same can be said of board service. All the more reason for board members to keep in mind for whom your light shines all year round: the students in your community.

On behalf of KSBA, I thank you for your gift of board service. We wish you and your loved ones the happiest of holidays!

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