KASB President’s Perspective: Many decisions await board members who ‘faithfully discharge’ their dutiesAndrea Hartzell
By the time this article hits your mailboxes, local election season will be upon us, with primaries on August 6 and the general election on November 5.
Thinking back to my very first school board meeting in 2011, I remember feeling excited and nervous as our county clerk stood to administer the oath of office to me and three other new board members. When we are sworn in, we repeat those words after the clerk, sit down, and get right to business. We may or may not reflect closely upon the words of the oath we just gave – there are so many other things immediately competing for our attention as new board members.
But I want to take this opportunity to remind all of us of those words, at least the variation used by our Douglas County clerk:
I do solemnly swear (affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Kansas, and faithfully discharge the duties of USD [ ] Board Member so help me God.
What do those words really mean? When we swear the oath of office, what are we promising to do for our children, our district, and our communities?
Upholding the law – the United States Constitution, the Kansas Constitution – that seems (maybe deceptively so) fairly straightforward. It’s that last part – “faithfully discharging” our duties – that carries the load for so many of the decisions we face as board members.
And make no mistake, there are a lot of tough decisions to be made right now. How do we uphold the promise of public education for every student that walks through our doors each school day? What responsibility do we have to those students who come to our schools in crisis, or undocumented, or facing bullying or harassment or microaggressions because of their race or their gender identity? How can we help students learn from their mistakes and heal the hurts their behavior may cause to their classmates or teachers?
Faithfully discharging our duties as board members means we have to engage with these questions, and choose actions that, at the end of the day, are actions that put students first.
That is the principle behind KASB’s recent statement on immigration. It is also the principle that guides NSBA’s recently adopted policy urging state associations and school districts to consider adopting equity policies for their organizations. And, it is the principle that animates efforts, described in this issue, to weave restorative practices into the fabric of our schools’ approaches to student behavior and discipline.
Put students first
If we are putting students first, and faithfully discharging our duties to educate every child that walks through our doors, then we will be having rich conversations about all these things.
Our beloved state has such a wide diversity of school districts, student needs, and community identities. Not every local policy will look alike, but if each of us maintains a focus on what is best for each student and on what we need to do to support the success of each student, we will get to where we need to be, meeting the needs of all students and realizing our sworn oaths to faithfully discharge our duties as school board members.
I wish you success on that journey and encourage you to support our fellow board members in fulfilling the promise of the words we all swear to as we begin our terms of office.