What made you become a school board member? NSBA is launching a campaign to highlight and showcase the stories behind school leaders who govern school districts.

We interviewed school board members at several NSBA events earlier this year. We asked them two simple but complex questions: Why did you run for school board? Why do you continue to serve?

The answers reflect the variety of people who choose to take on the responsibility of school board leadership. They also have one strong similarity: the desire to serve students and their communities.

We will be featuring the stories of school board service in upcoming issues of ASBJ and in other venues. If you want to tell your story, please send it to editorial@nsba.org.

Karen Watkins
Board member, Gwinnett County Public Schools, Suwanee, Georgia

I ran for school board to give students voice. I have two children in our school system, and when I listened to them and their fellow students, I found there was an opportunity to help ensure that we have student voice on our board.

When I was running for school board, it was about student achievement and ensuring that all of our children came out thriving, and they were educated so that they could take their next steps in their future. It’s important to serve because our children need the support. They need that voice. They need to know that their community supports them, their community wants them to succeed. And they need our help

Michael Ryan
Board member, Fort Worth Independent School District, Fort Worth, Texas

How do I provide for every student so that every student is treated with dignity and respect, along with our teachers? It’s my life’s journey. I love education. I love what we do. I love working with our school board. It’s a dichotomy of incredible diversity, but (people who are) fun to be with. They’re interesting to listen to. And we all basically get along simply because we know that everybody on that board wants every kid to be successful.

Our job is to really let parents know what we’re trying to do to help with the education of their children and why we do certain things.

Steve Corona
Board member, Fort Wayne Community Schools, Fort Wayne, Indiana

School boards make a difference. I’ve always thought that they add great importance to young people’s lives. The work of school districts and school boards are under close examination or under a microscope. And I’m so proud to tell people that look, we’re going to make decisions that are good for kids, good for our community. They may not be popular, but that’s what we have to do.

There’s a job description for people who wish to serve on a board. It starts with being a good listener and a lifelong learner. I think it’s a great job.

Cathy Thompson
Board president, Red Clay Consolidated School District, Wilmington, Delaware

As my children got older, I looked for a way to get more involved in school. I was the president of the PTA, and then I started attending board meetings. I started participating in them and, when one of the board members in my district decided not to rerun, he asked me to run. So, I ran, and I got elected. I ran mostly because in my life, education has been critical to everything I’ve been able to do. And I firmly believe that education is the key to success for every single child, and I want every child to get an outstanding education. That’s why I ran.

I think running for school board is a true privilege. I think serving on a school board is absolutely an honor. I do hope that people decide to do it, because we need people in our community to stand up, to listen, to have their voice, and to really have something to say about education for all our children in the district because education is the key. It’s the way. It’s the way up, it’s the way out, it’s the way that people can succeed in this world, and our society needs it.

Stephanie Thompson
Board president, Farmington Municipal Schools, Farmington, New Mexico

It is important to serve. School boards are the air traffic controllers. And the superintendent is the pilot of the plane, and everything that he oversees—the administrators, the staff, the students—are on that plane. All we’re doing is guiding that system to ensure that it doesn’t collide with things behind it and gets to its final location.

My goal as a school board president is really leveraging my industry experiences as an engineer, which is framed around systems and processes, to guide the district in providing a quality public education and being a voice for all students.

Steven Chapman
Board member, Tolleson Union High School District, Tolleson, Arizona

I ran for the school board in my district where I graduated from because I got involved with districts across the state, and I saw a lot of opportunities that those students were getting and those educators were getting with career and technical education (CTE) programs and internships. I thought, why wasn’t that there for me? Why isn’t that there right now? I got elected to my first term, and we went and passed some of the board policies to get some of that needed CTE funding.

I think with where we are right now as a society, it is important to know who your school board members are and to engage with them. Regardless of whether you have differences of opinion with the people sitting in those seats, it’s important that we talk to each other, listen to each other, and we try to find common ground.

Interviews were edited for length and clarity.

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