For those unaware, boards of education across our area will soon be electing trustees to three-year terms. As always, in contested races of interest within The Messenger’s coverage area, we will endorse candidates that align with the editorial board’s stances on a student-first education— namely, supporting candidates that believe in a holistic approach to student development. We believe in candidates who affirm the rights and roles of parents and students in the educational process.
For the sake of transparency, here is how we view a board of education and what we mean by the values mentioned above. It is then your prerogative how much you will weigh our endorsements, should any consideration be paid at all.
A school board essentially acts as a board of directors for the school district, representing the community’s interests over the school district. Day-to-day affairs are handled by school district administrators, teachers, and staff, while the school board votes on contracts, budgets, capital projects, and certain policies. Far from what some activists desire, a school board has no powers aside from those explicitly granted under New York State education law and other applicable statutes.
Yet, they are not powerless. As seen during the pandemic, school boards are capable of voicing their approval or disapproval of state policies. At times controversial decisions ranging from security, implementation of elective educational programs, and deciding your tax levy rest with your board of education. And for Long Islanders, the vitality of your school district heavily reflects on your property value.
School board trustees can also work formally or informally with policymakers to give input on state education policies. Approving contracts for administrators, faculty, and staff is also no small matter. A good superintendent and other C-suite staff that a school district employs are no small investment, often making in excess of $200,000 a year and heavily influencing the management and culture of the district.
Then, there are contracts negotiating the compensation of teachers and staff, which translates into the quality of education available for students. Thus, these volunteer positions are crucial in the community’s participation in education and oversight over how their property tax levy (roughly two-thirds of the average property tax bill) is spent.
Simultaneously, there is an incentive for organized labor groups that negotiate with the school district to get involved. While, as with many not-for-profits and public corporations, it is considered best practice for trustees not to be in direct contact with labor leaders, it is something that does happen and cannot be discounted. It would behoove even an ignoramus not to see what’s at stake for a union negotiating with the school district when it is time to support a candidate.
In the endorsements The Messenger will soon make, candidates ought to exhibit a belief that parents have rights when it comes to their child’s education, chiefly curriculum transparency. The ability to inspect materials is hardly burdensome and has been made easier through the introduction of electronic learning in many districts. The novelty of pedagogy should not be used as an excuse to dismiss ignorance of what a student has access to and consequently sees, as was the case with BrainPOP in many districts.
The Messenger will also look for trustee candidates that look at the summation of the whole student rather than test scores. In the era of grade inflation throughout higher education, Covid-related learning loss, and artificial intelligence, students must acquire more than high test scores on standardized exams. Whether it is skill-based learning, fine arts education, or accelerated learning opportunities, each student is different and deserves adequate preparation beyond K-12 education.