Positions such as a member of the local school board do not receive adequate attention or input from the public, in my opinion. These local boards impact our lives and those of our children to a greater extent than national and state committees. The current opening on the Coeur d’Alene School Board allows a unique opportunity for citizen input apart from the ballot box. I would like to provide my ideas to the selection committee on the qualifications I would suggest for the candidate who is selected to fill the open position. These are my personal suggestions based on my expectations of any member in light of the current times.
Although I have the greatest respect for teachers I do not believe the candidate should necessarily have been a teacher. Certainly knowledge of our education system, administrative know-how and some professional work relationship within the education field would be essential. Along with such professional activity I would like to see a demonstration of volunteer activity within school-related programs. Such programs which are designed to benefit children from a varying economic status to seek achievement goals that lead to a better lifestyle for themselves and their future families. Our children need to know that college and trade school training are available for better-paying jobs and how to get there.
Jobs with decent paychecks should be an objective for all our students. Ensuring quality education necessitates the ability to use that education. The new school board member should have a working understanding of the area employers and their workforce requirements. Having worked with area employers or networked with employers is the key to understanding access into the marketplace for our students who enter the workforce out of high school and those who continue on to higher education. Even though unemployment is low, unfortunately so are wages. A person with the knowledge of where jobs are that pay better wages and understands the educational path to better jobs is essential.
The current times see calls for better security in our schools. Part of the solution is being able to identify any potential threats to the well-being of our students. There may be no group better suited to recognize problem students than teachers. The problems may range from a learning disability to a potential for violence. Mr. Hearn, a current member of the school board, has a background in social work which helps in developing solutions. The understanding of these less-obvious student issues needs to be identified early and the schools need to be able to address any potential problems early by providing qualified counselors to evaluate such children. A person with a background such as psychology should bring the weight of the school board to support the need to help these students.
One final criteria, although there probably are others, would be a young candidate. The attitudes and beliefs of younger people, 20s and early 30s, are different from their parents and older people generally. Younger people have come of age in these times and understand the problems which they confront. Perhaps they also have a better understanding of how best to address them. My younger years have long since passed but I believe we need to continue passing the baton to those who can carry it and our school system into the future. Perhaps a younger female candidate may be the best choice in light of the current times.
As a member of the public I want to say what I think we should be seeking in our school candidates today. Others may have additional suggestions. My hope is that the selection committee does consider what the public wants and needs to best address the school system today and into the future. Many residents may have difficulty attending public meetings. The coverage of local issues by the media provides an added opportunity to make our concerns and hopes known to our leaders.
Phil Ward is a Coeur d’Alene resident.