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  Comments (0) Total Wednesday Apr. 23, 2014
Shaping Schools for Today and Tomorrow
Guest Commentary: Darlene Schottle
The American school board is a unique institution. Nowhere else in the world is the control of the formal education of children so close to the people. Living in an era of great bureaucracy, the local school board stands out as a fine example of grassroots democracy. As the May 4 school board election approaches, our communities need to vote for one of the candidates running for the seats that will be filled.

What are the qualifications necessary to run for the Board of Education?

The legal qualifications of each potential candidate are:
1. must be at least 18 years of age
2. must be a registered voter
3. must live in your school district they will represent

What are the skills and qualities sought in a school board member?

Serving on a Board of Education requires the ability to listen to all viewpoints, respect others’ opinions, and be interested in mediating differences. A school board member must be willing to communicate openly and honestly in order to formulate acceptable, prudent positions. The vision of a school board member should always be child-focused, reflecting a desire to ensure quality education for all children in the district.

Board of Education is ideally made up of fair-minded individuals, interested in learning and working together as a collective body. Individual members cannot represent only specific constituencies. If they do, then intra-board conflicts and purely political accommodations are inevitable and will displace the leadership that is needed to reach educational goals.

Board members must be hard-working and dedicated to the ideals of public service. Accessibility is essential, whether it means phone calls at home or conversations on the sidewalk. Members of the board must be willing to roll up their sleeves and give many hours of their time for sometimes exhausting or controversial tasks. They need to be in touch with schools and the community regarding educational issues. We have an 11-member school board that serves Kalispell Public Schools; four that represent that high school districts and seven that serve in a joint capacity of elementary and high school trustee.

What difference can a person make serving on the Board of Education?

According to The American School Board Journal, the typical school board member serves four years or less – not necessarily enough time to affect major change, but plenty of time to share particular gifts and vision. Serving on a school board is an opportunity to share and develop personal talents and skills as well as appreciate those of others. It is an opportunity to better know and understand your community. Most of all, it is an opportunity to care for our children and guide them toward the future, an opportunity to lead and serve the community, nation and world.

A Thank You…

On behalf of our local school districts and all our communities, I would like to thank the current and past members of all our school boards for their leadership and dedicated service. Their perspective and diplomacy have guided us well. In addition to the trustee election there will also be a request to approve an operational levy that will pay for a portion of the $603,000 budget shortfall we have in the elementary district. We have made reductions, but in order to continue some of our district supports we need our community to vote on the proposed $338,000 levy. There will be no operational levy on the ballot for the high school district. Our trustees voted to make reductions to cover the $216,000 budget shortfall at the high school level. The last item you will see on the ballot is a request for voters to approve the use of 2004 bond funds to purchase a piece of property as the future location of our elementary food service kitchen. This approval has no cost to the taxpayers.

I would like to thank the community for its ongoing support of our school system. The quality of our schools is a reflection of that support and, as people considering a move to our community will tell you, one of the key factors considered prior to relocation of a family.

For further information on the levy please go to www.sd5.k12.mt.us
Darlene Schottle is the superintendent of Kalispell Public Schools.
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