Sunday, December 8, 2013

In Service

Pottstown has even added some students to their school board. They are, from left, Gary Wise, Katrina Belmontes and Bishop Corney. Welcoming them to the board are District Judge Thomas Palladino, Superintendent Jeff Sparagana and School Board President Judyth Zahora.

Say what you want about how they raise your taxes; or make bad choices; or refuse to listen to the public and you'll understand why I have said for years that the world's most thankless job is serving on your local school board.

I say this after more than 25 years of attending their meetings.

And while I have joined the majority in taking my shots, rolling my eyes or shaking my head at those meetings, that's not why we're here today.
Pottsgrove Superintendent Shellie Feola bids goodbye to outgoing
board members Mike Neiffer, Scott Fulmer and Nancy Landes.

There's no lack of irony in the fact that the people who chose to step up and be responsible for what is arguably the single most important job a community has -- educating its children -- are the only elected officials who do not get paid.

This is the time of year when these boards "re-organize," choose their leadership, say goodbye to those who are leaving by choice, or by the voters' choice, and welcome those still willing to give up uncounted hours of their personal lives to perform a service most people will criticize them for doing.

And although the calendar tells us that January is the traditional "school board appreciation month," I think it makes more sense to do it now, when everyone is coming and going.

Obviously, I can't mention everyone; and just as obviously I cannot share too many personal thoughts about election results.

Pottstown School Board President Judyth Zahora
presents Robert Hartman Jr. with a resolution
thanking him for 13 years of board service.
But that doesn't mean I can't say thank you to those who serve on the school board in charge of my son's education here in Pottstown; or to the members of the Pottsgrove School Board, which I have covered almost as long.

Please know that some of us recognize the bewildering array of issues with which you must contend.

There's the incredibly steep learning curve on the alphabet soup of AYP, NCLB, PSSA, SAT; there's a state government that despite its protestations to the contrary is quite obviously determined to undermine public education at every opportunity; there is a dwindling tax base and antiquated property tax funding system which provides fewer and fewer resources to provide for more and more needs and requirements ... and then there are the parents.

As one myself, I know that rationality can be a hard thing to come by when it comes to your kids and their education, so emotions run high on nearly every subject on your table.

Then there are the endless, mind-numbing but necessary meetings which the public rarely sees or knows about, there are the late evening phone calls from angry parents or highly confident administrators and there's the fact that you can't walk down the aisle at Giant without someone stopping you to tell you what you "should do" or what they "would have done" ... you know, if they actually had the guts to be on the board and make those decisions.

Pottstown board members Polly Weand, Kimberly Stillwell and
Thomas Hylton take the oath of office
So as Thanksgiving dwindles in our rear-view mirror and Christmas looms ahead, allow me to take a moment to say thanks for, in many cases, years of service; for being willing to be the ones who make the inevitably unpopular choice from a list of unpalatable options and for trying to provide the best education possible for our children without breaking the backs of the long-suffering taxpayers.

No matter what some may say, without public education, democracy is doomed and these are hard times for public education.

And you don't need me to tell you you are serving on the front lines.

Amid all these contrary and perplexing distractions, please stay focused, do your own research and make the best, most-informed decisions you can.

Our children, and their anxious parents, are counting on you.

Above, Pottsgrove Board members Rick Rabinowitz, Matt Alexander, Diane Cherico and Kelley Crist take the oath of office.

No comments:

Post a Comment