Select Page

For a long time, local school board elections generated little interest and often few candidates. This mirrored the reality that, usually, school board meetings and the service associated with the office were perceived to be not overly exciting or controversial. However, as school board meetings have become contentious, political and confrontational in a post-pandemic world, elections for school board have also taken an interesting turn.  

What has traditionally prompted an individual to run for school board? Some candidates view these positions as “stepping stones” to other elected offices. Others are often former employees of the district who see the school board as a vehicle of change. Another group of candidates have only one particular focus for seeking the office: gifted, special education, etc. All of these types of candidates can become successful school board members, but can also prove to be problematic, for obvious reasons. 

The vast majority of candidates who run – and have been elected – are caring, civic-minded community members with service as a key core value. These type of individuals come to the board to improve the quality of education for ALL students, keep schools safe and ensure tax payer dollars are being used efficiently and effectively. The more these type of candidates populate a school board, the greater chance the district will have stability and success in the long term. 

Over the last several years, another type of candidate has emerged – those recruited and supported by national special interest groups. National organizations are getting directly involved in local school board elections, often taking controversial themes and issues dominating global media and driving them as problems that are rampant in their local district; often with little proof or facts. Governors, teacher unions, and others are also actively recruiting candidates to run on agendas that often have little to do with children. These efforts are not one-sided politically; both the extreme left and right have targeted school boards as areas to invest and control.  

What does these mean for the future of public education in the United States? It’s too early to tell, and perhaps this will be a “fad”, and other elected positions will become more of a focal point for national groups. However, in the here and now, it is critically important to evaluate every candidate running for school board and have one essential litmus test; are they running to make education better and more effective for all children? Candidates should be able to articulate why they are running and their qualifications as an individual leader; not just because they have the endorsement of prominent politicians and national organizations. They should also be able to discuss what opportunities and challenges they see with the school district and be able to ground these viewpoints in facts and data not propaganda. 

The quality of school board candidates matters and it is crucial for communities to select individuals who want to address real issues confronting the district, not fabricated or exaggerated challenges. Our communities, staffs, and most of all, our children, deserve no less.

Making a Case for Career & Technical Education

Each February, school districts across the country recognize and celebrate Career & Technical Education (CTE) month.   This public awareness campaign celebrates these important programs designed to equip students with the future-ready skills necessary to take their next step in life. Through intentional and meaningful programming and learning opportunities, students can obtain skills for high demand occupations within their own local market or state and national economy, along with academic skills necessary to continue their education after high school.  

CTE programs have come a long way since the days of Home Economics and Wood Shop. Current course offerings include Floral Design, Medical Pathways, Robotics, and Law Enforcement, just to name a few.  By offering a wide variety of engaging programs that allow students to explore career options while still in school, CTE programs contribute to higher graduation rates. When students see how their classroom learning directly correlates to their future goals, they are more likely to stay engaged and focused.  They are also more likely to develop problem solving, research, communication, time management and critical thinking skills. 

Another benefit of CTE is the “try it before you buy it” aspect of exploring a career field before committing considerable time and resources.  By offering hands-on opportunities in areas such as Health Science, Engineering and Education, students can participate in the day-to-day of those career fields and determine if it is a true fit for their future goals. While the hope is always to help students discover their passion, there is also merit in helping a student learn what they are not interested in, before investing considerable time and resources after graduation. 

A well-designed CTE program ensures alignment with national standards and places students right the doorstep of industry-recognized certifications. School districts across the state are seeing tremendous increases in CTE enrollment and certifications. Statistics from Texas Education Agency indicate an increase in industry-based certifications earned by Texas high school graduates, from approximately 11,000 in 2017 to approximately 81,000 in 2021.  

A growing number of business leaders in our community are throwing their support behind our CTE programs, serving on a CTE Advisory Committee.  This committee provides students the opportunity to spend time in relevant, work-based learning programs as paid and unpaid interns. In addition to advocating for CTE programs within the school district, committee members also provide expertise by reviewing curriculum, facilities, student competencies and student placement in related occupations.  

School districts that are planning to construct a dedicated CTE Center should consider how the larger community might also benefit. CTE centers can be constructed as multi-use facilities. In addition to functioning as CTE classroom, centers can be designed to also serve as emergency shelters and as meeting spaces for community groups.  Community members may be able to drop in for coffee and a pastry from the Culinary Arts Kitchen, as they wait for Auto Tech students to change the oil on their car. 

When school districts commit resources to building CTE-dedicated facilities, school leaders should contact neighboring districts and architectural firms to arrange tours and ask questions to learn what has/has not worked for those programs. This valuable input may be used to create a space to best meets the needs of both the community and support the CTE programs that are most meaningful to the district’s student population.