School board service brings rewards, difficulties PDF Print E-mail
Written by , Staff Writer   
Tuesday, April 03, 2007

PLATTSBURGH — Leisa Boise didn’t have any expectations running for School Board.
She wanted to be able to share the concerns that she and other people she spoke with had about education.
Now, near the end of her second year serving on the Plattsburgh City School Board, Boise has involved herself in issues that affect students and has gained insight into the intricacies of the public-school system.
“As a parent, you sit and think things can change instantaneously and you don’t think about things that play into it, like contracts.
“You can’t change things overnight. It is a process you have to go through.”
School districts statewide are accepting petitions now from individuals interested in filling School Board seats whose terms expire this year.
Some districts have little problem attracting interested people to board service, while others rarely have contested races, possibly from lack of interest or maybe because the community is pleased with current board members.
Whatever the case, those who volunteer to serve — in what school officials say is often a thankless role with no financial compensation — find the experience invaluable in that they are able to serve their community and students.
“In some cases, board members may come on for various reasons, but once they get involved with the process and get involved with working with other members, they soon become a team and do what is best for the students,” said Northeastern Clinton Central School Superintendent Robert Hebert.
“I think one of the things board members soon realize is they are one of seven, and you need a quorum to make any decisions, and you work together.”
Hebert’s School District is accepting petitions until April 16 to fill one seat on the School Board.
Over the years, the number of people who run for open seats often depended on whether the incumbent is seeking re-election and if that individual has done an adequate job, in the community’s eyes.
“I think competition is healthy,” Hebert said. “Right now, we have a few people who have picked up petitions.”
School Board members attend monthly meetings and workshops, serve on committees, create budgets, attend emergency meetings and possibly approve emergency spending and more. They also participate in the hiring of administrators, teachers and support staff, as well as contract negotiations.
Plus, education is highly regulated by the state and federal government, both of which stick schools with unfunded mandates that taxpayers cover.
“I think it takes a special person to run for the board and be able to handle some of the stuff that comes along with the position,” said AuSable Valley Central School Superintendent Paul Savage.
Schools are sometimes the target of anger from taxpayers and parents, and School Board members can be on the receiving end when people vent their frustrations.
“That makes it difficult to take on that volunteer role,” Savage said. Three seats are up for vote on his district’s School Board. All the incumbents are running, said Savage, and races are usually uncontested.
Gail Else said the same of races for seats on the Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School Board. An incumbent seeks to keep the one seat there.
“In my experience, it has been fairly quiet, and mostly the incumbents have run and been re-elected,” she said.
“I think we have a very positive and productive School Board, and they work very well together, and I believe community is very supportive of the work they are doing and their capabilities.”
School Board races are often uncontested at Newcomb Central School, where there is one seat up for vote this year.
“It is a pretty thankless job,” said Superintendent Skip Hults. “I know my board takes their responsibility to the students very seriously, but many times when you do things right you don’t get thanked, but when things go wrong you get blamed.”
At Moriah Central School, more people usually run for School Board than there are open seats.
“We have a good number of candidates every year,” said Superintendent Bill Larrow.
Petitions are due April 16 for the three available seats there. “I think there is definitely nice interest in our community from people interested in what is going on in the school and people who really believe they can get on the board and make a difference,” Larrow said.
For Boise, running for Plattsburgh City School Board was the next step after serving five years on the Family-School Association. Her first two years as a board member have been interesting.
“It was an eye opener. There are many different factors that play in being on the board.”
She enjoys being part of the discussions and outcomes, always making sure she listens to others and that her voice on the board, in turn, makes a difference.
“You have many different personalities on the board, not that anyone is bad or indifferent, but everybody has their own opinion, and you may agree and may not agree.”
Fortunately, she said, Plattsburgh board members always are willing to listen and do what is right for the district and students.
One seat is up for grabs on the nine-member Plattsburgh City School Board, which meets once every three weeks.
“You have to be aware why you are serving and look at the true picture,” Boise said.
“You have to be on there for a reason, and that reason has to have something to do with the children.”
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