Ladies and Gentlemen:
I have been on the Oak Ridge Board of Education since June 2005. My second term on this board is coming to a close in November, after what will be nine years and five months. But who’s counting?
I have decided not to seek re-election. On a personal level, I’m committed to term limits and shared responsibility. I should have been through in June of 2013, but a City Charter revision, through some smoke and mirrors, fixed things so that terms that should have expired in June of 2013 were extended to November 2014, an additional 17 months. Three current board members are in that situation.
Recently, I have been asked about “school boarding”—what the process is for running for a seat on the School Board, where do you register, how many signatures are required to be placed on the ballot, what a campaign would entail, and what time commitment it takes to serve on the School Board if elected. I am glad to provide this information and my opinions. I applaud anyone who wants to serve on a Board of Education. Public education is very important to me, this city, this state, and the nation.
There are three basic tasks for a BOE: policy, planning, and promotion. But the job is far more involved than that. Board members will not hire or fire any staff. Nor will they micromanage the work of any staff, including the superintendent. Collectively, the BOE has one employee—the superintendent. The board hires him/her, and he/she does everything else. You do not work for the superintendent or the board, but working with those two, even if you disagree, will make things easier. Otherwise, the board may become dysfunctional. No community deserves a dysfunctional board of any kind. A 5-0 vote has the same effect as a 4-1 or 3-2 vote. The board speaks with one voice.
- Go to the Anderson County Election Commission.
- You must be a resident of Oak Ridge and have a high school diploma or equivalent.
- You will need to get 25 proper signatures on a petition to qualify.
- The campaigns seem to have ballooned since my first term beginning in 2005—signs, speeches, forums, gathering campaign contributions, endorsements, etc.
- The terms are for four years.
- Time commitment—yes. If elected, you will go to a two-day BOE orientation, then seven hours of continuing education each year in a required module. These two things are required by the State of Tennessee. Then a monthly regular meeting, special-called meetings, work sessions when called, school and department visitations, retreats (one or two per year), fall district meetings, Tennessee School Boards Association Convention (November), National School Boards Association Convention and other various conventions. While these last three (four) are not required, you really need to go at least a couple of times to each during your first term. You can learn a bunch of stuff and interact with BOE members from across the state and the nation.
- Lots of reading and study for meeting preparation.
- Working with and for your constituents and with City Council.
- Compensation: $150 per month (by City Charter) plus the use of an Ipad. No automobiles or health insurance, etc.
- BOE members are members of the community. We have no special powers except that we have authority over school matters during a public meeting—from gavel to gavel.
- I’ve probably forgotten something.
In my opinion (IMO), and this is not required, but it is extremely helpful that you should be committed to public education—real public education. Politics should not be a part of the BOE’s function or education in general, IMO, but, alas, it is.
I will be very honest with you about this next part, and I am surely not trying to discourage anyone. If you are not willing to make the time commitment, or if you are a single-issue candidate, you really need to evaluate whether or not you really want to be a BOE person. Otherwise, you may be disappointed.
Donato (Dan) DiGregorio