Suburbs set class for school boards
Aug. workshop to educate potential candidates
Commercial Appeal: By Cindy Wolff
Thursday, June 7, 2012
If voters in the six suburbs outside Memphis approve a referendum Aug. 2 for municipal school districts, citizens who want to sit on the school boards will have some homework.
The suburbs are jointly hosting a workshop Aug. 7 at the Bartlett Station Municipal Center to educate those who are considering running Nov. 6 for the 30 school board positions.
Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman, who also serves as a suburban member of the unified school board, presented the idea to the other suburban mayors.
"This vote is going to be one of the most important ones in the history of these towns," Wissman said. "We need to hit the ground running."
The suburbs will need to elect five at-large members to each board. Officials believe most of those running will be first-time politicians who will serve on a board that's never met to govern a school system that's still a concept.
The Nashville-based Tennessee School Boards Association is sending executive director Tammy Grissom here in August to help potential candidates understand school boards.
"School board members don't have to have expertise in education," Grissom said. "Their No. 1 objective is to focus on students, and decide what you are going to do to help students in your community. They are not responsible for day-to-day operations for the school system. They don't fire teachers. They don't deal with complaints. They are responsible for governing and for policy making."
The suburbs are looking for well-informed candidates who will look beyond the attention they will receive from the media as a school board member.
The newly elected school board members will need to attend mandatory training at least one day per year at the Tennessee School Boards Association's Nashville headquarters.
They'll have to take time off work throughout their term to attend meetings. Most of them will get paid $300 a month.
"Some don't realize the time commitment they will have to make to do this, Grissom said. "It's not just the one big board meeting each month and that's it."
Officials don't want to encourage or discourage people from running, Wissman said.
"They just need to know it's not going to be what they thought it was," he said. "The best decision they may make is deciding they don't have the time to commit to this. Also, this isn't a time when you need to vote for your neighbor or best friend. You need to vote for the best candidate."
-- Cindy Wolff: (901) 529-2378