Across Idaho, dedicated individuals give up countless hours in volunteer roles to guide their local school districts. These community-minded people are locally elected and often must make decisions in communities with divided opinions on what is best. In the Magic Valley, school board trustees play an integral role in the success of young people.
“School boards are the governing body that ensures our schools, students, and teachers reach their full potential,” said Dr. Brady Dickinson, Superintendent for the Twin Falls School District. “They must be dedicated to the community and must navigate the complexities of providing a system that educates thousands of students from different backgrounds.”
In Idaho, school boards are elected volunteers. No school board member can receive any compensation for their work. Meetings often occur multiple times a month and regularly stretch past three hours. On top of the standard meetings, trustees take part in training sessions, attend conventions to advocate at a state level for their schools, and network with education leaders to learn about best practices. They frequently attend school-sponsored events to engage with the community as a whole. It is common to see a school board trustee leaving their place of business to attend a Veterans Day Assembly, serve as a judge for senior projects, tour a school building, or cheer on an athletic team.
These officials are entrusted with overseeing all aspects of school districts. This means big decisions like whether to pursue a bond levy or when to start the school year. They also hear from children who think there should be more recess. While their position dictates that they make these decisions, they must also separate themselves from the day-to-day operations to appropriately provide a venue for appeals when there are disagreements with administrative decisions. They approve budgets and purchasing, finalize hiring recommendations, set calendars and policies, and approve the curriculum. These types of decisions don’t always draw public scrutiny but in recent years school boards have been required to make decisions that regardless of the outcome will anger part of their community.
Recent national events created a divide between communities and elected officials on all levels. This can be seen in angry emails sent to trustees and rants on social media calling for their resignation. What is not often seen is the tireless work trustees put in to impact our school systems in positive ways. Trustees across the state direct administrators to engage with the community before making recommendations. They ask for feedback to help make decisions in meetings open to the public and consistently inquire about how their votes will impact the lives of children and teachers. They, above all else, want to see schools succeed in educating kids to become active and engaged citizens. They do this because they are members of the community.
“Serving on my local school board is extremely important to me. I believe all citizens have a calling to fulfill in the development and teaching of our youth, and in this one small way I can support the dedicated teachers, staff, and administrators in our district who have made this their career,” said Jonathan Lord, Chairman for the TFSD Board of Trustees. “Giving back to our community as a school board member provides others a model for how to serve and to care for this community. I love making a difference in our schools, and I am proud to be part of a district that cares about its staff, its families, and its students and aims to provide quality educational opportunities for every learner.”
School boards consist of our neighbors. They attend church, support charities, own or work in local businesses, pay local taxes, and raise their children alongside their constituents. In the Magic Valley, these fine men and women pride themselves in remaining engaged, relevant, and supportive of the people they represent. In Twin Falls, those who come forward to serve on the school board are consistently striving to do what is best for all students, teachers, and families