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Friday, December 2, 2022

Five questions to contemplate when voting for school board members  

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In November, Hoosiers across the state will cast their votes to elect school board members for their respective districts. School board members in Indiana are either elected or appointed government officials who receive compensation for their role.  

Not only are these public servants responsible from the fiduciary perspective for an entire K-12 school district, but they are also responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of a school district’s appointed superintendent. In turn, the role of school board member is arguably one of the most influential political offices that can be held by community members. In turn, the role impacts entire generations of community members through each district’s student body.  

In a November 2021 piece authored by Ferrel Guillory for EdNC, he noted the following: “Ballotpedia covered 960 school district elections from 2018 to 2020, including all North Carolina districts in 2019. It found that ‘between 35% and 40% of elections were unopposed each year, that incumbents won between 57% and 61% of seats each year, and that between 82% and 89% of incumbents who sought re-election won each year.’” 

Notably, many states are now taking a route for 2022 elections that will also allow candidates for school board to list their party affiliation on ballots. Why? A December 2021 article from Politico authored by Andrew Atterbury and Juan Perez Jr. define one reason for this shift as quoted from Sen. Joe Gruters in Florida: “We’re out there trying to elect good conservatives that will follow essentially the governor’s mission as it relates to education.” Gruters (R-Sarasota), the state Senate’s education chair also leads the Republican Party of Florida. 

“When you have a leader like DeSantis come out and say that there should be no lockdowns, if you have a Republican elected official, you would think they would probably give him the consideration and probably go along with what he asked.” Click here to read the entire article.  

Whatever the elections of 2022 may bring, Hoosiers can expect that those politicians running for varying offices are leveraging local school boards to advance their agendas.  

It is why Hoosiers must enact a concerted urgency and awareness to continue naming truth and examining our current moment with a lens of compassionate curiosity while recognizing and naming explicitly that divisive actions and rhetoric from elected politicians (such as HB1134, which died in the Senate recently) absolutely will not brainwash future generations of Hoosiers.  

Here are five questions to consider as you contemplate running for your local school district’s board or cast your vote this coming November: 

  1. Does this person have a track record of effective change management in diverse communities?  
  1. Will this person operate with a lens of understanding in regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion with all of our student body populations represented?  
  1. Why is this person qualified to manage the responsibility of a multi-million dollar school budget?  
  1. What contextual experiences in leadership have the individuals running for school board been part of that makes them uniquely qualified to effectively evaluate the leadership of a K-12 school superintendent?  
  1. Is this person courageous enough to evolve and consider abandoning past ways of thinking that are no longer serving the district?  

Many school board members run unopposed for years in Indiana. Could you be your community’s next board member who advocates on behalf of all students in your community?  

Justine Gonzalez is an Indiana native and first-generation college grad having served in both Chicago Public and Indianapolis Public Schools. Her consulting firm, Educator Aide Inc., partners with organizations to help cultivate culturally connected, equitable, and inclusive working and learning environments.  

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