Finding the right school board member

It is refreshing to see the number of people who have expressed interest in serving on the Clinton City Board of Education, filling the unexpired term of long-time board member E.R. Mason, who died just a few weeks ago.

We had nearly lost hope that there were folks out there with an interest in that type of public service, given that only three people — two of them incumbents and one a former superintendent — actually filed to run for vacant spots on the school board just a few months back.

This week, however, we discovered that five are actually seeking a seat at the table (a sixth, Dr. Varnie Fullwood, pulled his name from consideration). That word came from the Clinton City Board of Education Monday, when chairwoman Carol Worley made the public announcement, noting that those interested in the seat would now be asked to meet with the board during a comment session May 14.

Those interested are: Roscoe Emanuel Jr., Dr. Oscar Rodriguez, Regina Lucious, Perry Gillespie and Dr. Linda Brunson. All are good people with a bend toward community service.

It will be the Board of Education’s job now to look beyond just those two assets to determine who is best qualified to help them lead a progressive school system and, as best they can, follow community surveys the board sought as a means of helping them determine what citizens want in a school board member.

Among those qualities defined by the survey are experience in public education, knowledge of educational policies, a genuine concern for educating all children, a focus on students and an understanding of employee needs. Also important on the survey was that a member have children in the system.

We concur, believing that a leader on the school board should have all those qualities. We add to that list two very important ones: school board members should come to the table without a personal agenda and they should be of the highest moral character.

Personal agendas are destructive on any public board, but that’s particularly true when it comes to leadership roles that involve children. A school board member must be willing to see the entire picture, which includes every single child, no matter their race, their social status or their learning ability. And their decisions should be based on what is good for children as a whole, a difficult stance sometimes when a board member has children in the system.

But good board members can, and do, set aside personal feelings to act in the best interest of the whole, understanding their role as policy-makers. In selecting a member to fill Mason’s seat, that, we believe, has to be a number one priority.

Coming in a very close second should be finding someone with good moral character. While it should go without saying, a school board member — any leader, really — should set a positive example for the children who look up to them, including in their own personal behavior both in the board room and within the community.

And a person holding a school board seat should understand that power of the position should be wielded gently and infrequently. School boards aren’t political and should never be so.

The Clinton City Board of Education holds in its grasp children’s futures. The decisions they make matter greatly to an entire community and beyond. Selecting a board member is perhaps one of the biggest decisions they will make during their tenure. We hope they will pay close attention to the survey results, listen carefully to the individuals seeking the seat and choose the person who they think will serve the system best.

This should not be a decision based on who will support other members most; it should only be about who will support the children and who will work to make a very good school system even better for them.