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Public forums needed for school elections

Public forums needed for school elections

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Deep breath, close eyes and vote.

Isn't that about how most of us prepare for a school board election?

That is if we vote at all. Please don't be offended if these opening words hit home. You are among many friends and neighbors that would fall on their proverbial sword to cast a ballot at a general election.

Yet, somehow the school board seems less important. Actually school trustees play a vital role in every community. Their decisions affect us whether young or old, man or woman, husband or wife, or whatever. They are a major facet in the education and eventual success or failure of our youth.

Board member candidates are volunteers. They are offering to serve. Their rewards , if any, will most likely be in the form of criticism. If they are to be effective they must have some philosophy with which they view this confusing world. They may even have an agenda! What a shame that to have an agenda is now viewed as negative. Anyone worth a damn has some kind of agenda, goals, issues of value to them.

Call it what you will; but shouldn’t the voter have some idea what their philosophy is? For example, do we really want to elect a truly far-left or far-right zealot to our local school board? School board elections are non-partisan; but, shouldn’t all candidates publicly face voter questions at sometime during the election cycle? Just remember we all pay taxes for our school whether we have a youngster in school or not.

I know from personal experience that in general elections the justice of peace candidates need to be prepared for questions. A well managed forum at which questions are encouraged can be quite an experience. God help the candidate that has not done a serious effort at self examination.

How do you and I gain knowledge about school board candidates? Maybe they make a general statement in the Bitterroot Star or Ravalli Republic. That's a fine worthwhile service by the media but it doesn't fill the bill. Maybe the school sends information home to the parents. Also not adequate.

It's too late this time around; but, I suggest and hope some of you will help me insist that school board forums become an anticipated, accepted routine in future elections. These gatherings should be sponsored by worthy community organizations such as Kiwanis, Masons, Knights of Columbus, American legion, Lions and ideally with two or more of them cooperating as sponsors.

I'm a legionnaire and intend to be a hard advocate in the Legion. Attendance is the goal so that information is gained and put to use in advocacy. The school may or may not want such a program. Does it matter? We pay the bills and the community has every the right to insist. Never forget that the school board's ultimate responsibility is not to the state or the federal authorities, but, to you and me as a community. That statement simply means we should seek and support the candidates that not only possess wisdom but also some plain old guts.

— Ed Sperry Col USAF (ret), Stevensville


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