Fall is in full swing. The nights are getting longer and the days shorter. The leaves are turning red and gold, and colder weather is making its way across the northern part of the country. With the fall season come additional reminders of “why we do what we do” for the students and families in our communities.
As school board members, you likely have been or perhaps currently are involved in an election cycle. New members come on to their boards eager to learn and make a difference. Returning board members work to build on the progress made in their school districts over their previous term. Election day is an important day for those of us running for our local school board. It’s also an important day for all of us to get out and vote for our local government officials and school board representatives and other items that may be on our local ballots.
Fall season also brings American Education Week, which occurs during the week before Thanksgiving. The start of American Education Week goes back to 1919, when it was discovered that a quarter of the World War I draftees were considered illiterate. Members from the American Legion and National Education Association (NEA) met and sought out ways that public education could be supported and highlighted. The two groups went on to co-sponsor the first American Education Week in 1921. It was described in the NEA resolution as “an educational week observed in all communities annually for the purpose of informing the public of the accomplishments and needs of the public schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs.”
The concept of a free or public education has its roots in the thoughts of our nation’s founding fathers. In his letter of Oct. 28, 1813, to John Adams, Thomas Jefferson described a bill he had proposed in Virginia for a system of decentralized education, writing that “it was a bill for the more general diffusion of learning. This proposed to divide every county into wards of five or six miles square, like your townships; to establish in each ward a free school for reading, writing and common arithmetic; to provide for the annual selection of the best subjects from these schools who might receive at the public expense a higher degree of education at a district school.” Jefferson also supported local control of these schools.
Other public education groups have since become co-sponsors of American Education Week, including the U.S. Department of Education, the National PTA, the American Association of School Administrators, and the National School Boards Association, among others.
As a fellow school board member and public school advocate, I encourage you to work with your school district and your local schools to embrace American Education Week, the week of Nov. 18-22, and make an extra effort through your local media outlets, district websites, and social media to highlight the great things occurring in your public schools each and every day.
I hope you all enjoy the fall season and that you use both election day and American Education Week as times to demonstrate your support for our public school students and their families.
And to all the newly elected and re-elected school board members across the country, I offer my congratulations.