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Thursday, October 27, 2011

40 Years On a School Board

Yesterday's Blog entry shared a news article expressing concern about the infusion of over $600,000 in a city-wide school board election campaign in Denver, Colorado. The story cast a bright light on the hidden potential for outside interest groups to forcefully and dramatically intervene in a local forum, distorting issues and overwhelming people who actually live and vote in the district. Today's Blog offers a far different perspective. It focuses on the dedication of an individual pledged to make a viable and lasting difference in his community by respecting and reflecting the interests and principles collectively embodied in the populace.  And he was repeatedly elected to his post without any advertisement or fanfare, without any campaign funds, but rather on the basis and promise of his reassuring smile, warm handshake, and disarming personality.

Forty years serving as an elected official on a school board of education. Sounds like a sentence in prison, doesn't it? This is especially impressive when you consider all of the meetings, all of the workshops, and all of the public forums were attended without any financial compensation.  More accurately it reveals a tremendous dedication to a community and a willingness to contribute energy and effort in the best interests of others.

I am privileged to have a friend who has devoted himself to building the future of thousands of people over his forty plus years as a school board member, first at the school district level and later (and currently) at the regional level at a BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services). There is no better definition of a public servant than what this man has demonstrated in his capacity as a school board member.

Last evening my wife and I attended a reunion of sorts involving an expansive group of people who had participated in a long-running cultural exchange program between schools representing a small town in upstate New York and a similarly sized village in Bavaria, Germany. We were pleased to renew our friendship and accept an offer to be his guest for dinner. As always, he demonstrated a cordial and accommodating attitude and extended care and compassion in his words and deeds.

Throughout his tenure on the two different boards of education he has been fully vested in forging pathways to success for learners of all ages and all stages. There were difficult decisions over the years where interests of various parties competed for scarce resources and conflicted over values and beliefs - but there were also significant advances in collaborating with diverse constituent groups toward common goals. There were financial constraints that limited possibilities and brought people and programs to the depths of despair - but there were also opportunities and possibilities born of hard work and sweat. There were both tragedies and triumphs. The full spectrum of emotions and experiences were evidenced through the years, and he could be counted on as a dependable and reliant stalwart of the public good no matter the circumstances.

After working with a number of different school boards over my many years as a school leader I remain in awe of this person. He has distinguished himself through his resilience and conviction, his sacrifice and success. He has been committed to making a difference in the lives of others - for over forty years. His legacy is assured and it will be extended and enriched by the benefits realized by those impacted by the many decisions he made as a school board member.

Too many communities show too little understanding and appreciation for the contributions of their fellow residents who willingly assume the responsibilities of acting voluntarily as stewards of the welfare and future of the community. Our society needs more people who will step up and serve others by making a difference and sustaining hope for the future - not for fame and money, but for altruistic reasons and noble purposes.

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