This year's political season is over -- for the most part, that is -- with voters having elected candidates from the president of the United States to city council members to directors of local water boards. Some cities, I'm told, even elected their mayor outright with a majority vote. Amazing, considering our local predicament.
Included in the newly elected matrix of citizen politicians are several members of school boards from the county's 42 school districts. Chief among these are three new trustees of the five-member San Diego City Schools Board of Education.
Serving on school boards these days is a significant challenge in an era of high-stakes standardized tests, a continuing state funding crisis and restless employee unions of teachers and other district staffers whose salary increases in recent years have not kept pace with the raises they once enjoyed. Add to that the grinding personality clashes among board members that have characterized some board meetings -- again, the City Schools Board being the chief culprit.
Standardized tests, inadequate funding and salary freezes will still be with the state and our region's school boards when most of them seat their new members next month. Gone, hopefully, will be the ugly brawls that have turned some board meetings into political mud wrestling matches.
What should we as parents, taxpayers, employers and community members in general be looking for in our school boards as they begin their new terms? While there is no single model of an ideal school board member, there are standards of performance and conduct that will contribute to the level and style of governance necessary to enhance the capacity of our schools to improve student achievement and opportunity for every student.
In no particular order, here are some behaviors that school board members should adopt:
The overarching requirement for being an effective school board member is to have a strong belief in the value of public education and a deep commitment to serve and educate all children. School board members must have a passion for democracy and a true understanding that their role is to implement the will of the majority, not to impose their own will on each other, district staff and most importantly, on other people's children. At the same time, as in any adult endeavor, school board members must have the personal capacity to learn and grow.
Let's hope that the new and old members alike of the San Diego City Schools Board of Education and other school boards across our county have the discipline to meet these commonsense standards. We cannot afford to have school boards fail the test.
Hovenic is president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation and executive director of the Foundation's Business Roundtable for Education. E-mail her at email@example.com.