Michael Ray: Why I Serve

By Michael Ray

In 2019, it’s still easy to think about school as a place and education as an activity that happens mostly within the physical confines of a school. I don’t think that’s ever really been the case, and it’s certainly not true today.

Education at its best has always been a partnership between educators and families with support from communities that value the education taking place inside and outside a classroom.

School board members have a unique role within that partnership. We bring diverse perspectives and experiences to board service and act as a bridge between schools and the community. We set policy, prioritize goals through budgeting, hire and oversee a superintendent, and advocate for our students and public education. We are where the proverbial buck stops when it comes to public education in our communities while serving as champions for our students and districts.

It’s been said the world is run by those who show up. We need more Oklahomans in our cities and towns to show up and lead. Oklahoma has about 2,700 locally elected school board members, and the three-day filing period to run for hundreds of those seats begins Monday.

Serving on a school board is high-profile volunteer work. You’re accountable to your neighbors, the person sitting next to you at church, the former classmate you run into at the grocery store and the local business owners you see at the Rotary or Lion’s Club meeting.

The decisions we make as a board can put us at odds with friends and family. After nine years on Guymon’s school board, I know for sure that school board service isn’t a popularity contest! But it’s important work. Here are just a few of the reasons I serve:

• I believe in the power of public education to transform lives, improve communities and move Oklahoma forward.

• I believe schools are central to community, and it’s my responsibility to be supportive.

• I believe board service is an extraordinary privilege and an enormous responsibility. The decisions affect our children, district employees, the families in our community and our community’s economic well-being.

• I believe in creating opportunity and pursuing solutions to challenges.

• I believe my children (and all children) deserve leaders who are committed to and invested in their success.

If you serve on a school board, thank you and I encourage you to continue your service. If you haven’t considered school board service as a way to support your community, please do. For more information on running for school board, visit the Oklahoma State School Boards Association website at www.ossba.org/getonboard.

Ray, a business owner and cattleman in Guymon, is president of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and member of the Guymon School Board.

This article originally appeared in The Oklahoman.