Eastside Education Network reached out to past school board members and parent leaders to seek their views on what potential candidates should consider before running. Here’s a compilation of their answers:
1. Are you a single issue candidate? – School boards races often attract candidates driven by a single issue. And while that cause may be a worthy one, unless your agenda is shared by at least two other members, you may waste most of your term banging your head against the wall. Says former Issaquah School Board President and former State Rep. Chad Magendanz (R-5th Issaquah): “Potential candidates need to consider what will be necessary to build a majority on the board, and recognize that the issue of the day may be long gone before you’ve built that coalition.”
2. Can you listen to everyone? – An effective school board member must listen to all perspectives and do their best to strike a balance. Kelly Munn, State Field Director for The League of Education Voters, says each school board candidate must consider whether they can do what is right for the entire community, not just for their family, their friends or a particular group of supporters.
3. Do you have the time? – Candidates should look realistically at how much time they have to devote to the job. The hours can be substantial. Board members typically have additional schedule demands for small group meetings, responding to various inquiries, and developing expertise on matters important to their district, such as school construction financing.
4. Have you reached out personally? – Candidates should have a coffee with a current school board member and ask them about the job. Regularly attending school board meetings is another way to get a feel for what the job is like.
5. Are you willing to learn more? – Various groups offer trainings on how to run for school board and how to be an effective school board member. Candidates should attend one or more to learn about the job. Additionally, each school district’s website has board meeting minutes, policies, procedures and a wealth of information that candidates should study before jumping in.