An Open Letter to School Board Members:
Communities rise in crisis. We’ve seen it happen time and again. But rare is the moment every community in the country – and many throughout the world – find themselves facing the same crisis.
This public health emergency demands for leadership – and not just at the national and state levels. School boards must lead, too.
Like me, you’ve been trained on the complicated inner-workings of school finance. You’ve learned about transparency in government through open meetings and open records laws. You know the importance of sound policies to guide district decisions.
All of those aspects of school board service are important. But in times of crisis, it’s not enough. What’s become obvious in the hours and days since state officials first announced the closure of school buildings is just how much the nuts-and-bolts aren’t enough.
The foundational charge of a school board has always been to look out for children. It only takes a day of school board service to realize caring for children isn’t just the foundation of our work; it’s what matters most. And caring for children – especially in times of crisis – means caring for our community.
On March 16, state education officials told local school districts to close their buildings. On March 25, they told us to finish the school year via distance learning.
But even before those orders, schools in Guymon and all across Oklahoma were mobilizing to feed children – and not just the children who attend local schools. All children. Thousands upon thousands of meals are being prepared and delivered every day. Food isn’t just the most tangible way we serve. It is meeting one of the most basic human needs our families have.
Of course, we’re trying to keep learning on track, too. But perhaps more important, we’re providing connection in a time when distance is necessary for safety. We’re connecting students to their teachers and one another.
School board members aren’t just a school district’s connection to the community. We are the community. And our communities are depending on us to keep leading, even when it’s hard and even when there’s no playbook.
You know what’s needed in your community, and working with families, education employees other local leaders and partners, you can help meet those needs.
Every community is blessed with incredible administrators, teachers and support employees who are serving children and families. Partners are stepping up, too, to help fill gaps. We aren’t in this work alone; together we’ll survive and thrive.
Keep leading. Our doors may be closed, but schools remain the center, safety net and shining light of our state’s communities. Thank you for rising up to lead in your community.
President, Guymon Public Schools Board of Education
President, Oklahoma State School Boards Association