When I was a freshman at Connecticut College in the early 1990s, my beloved hometown of Merrimack, NH elected a Christian Coalition majority to our school board. The margin was something like 6 votes in a town of roughly 26,000 at the time. Please don’t fact check me, but it was very close. I did not come home to vote, nor did I request an absentee ballot. Neither did many of my friends. Our votes could have made an important difference. Instead, a school district which empowered us with a first rate education, the ability to think critically, deal with failures, overcome challenges, and develop compassion and communication skills, backpedaled to the 1950’s in terms of eliminating sex education, eradicating any mention of homosexuality, and disciplining teachers who spoke of restricted topics. Unfortunately, amazing teachers and administrators left the district.
I found myself watching “Good Morning America” or “The Today Show” in our common room in KB dorm with some friends and seeing the story unfold on television. We had made national news, and it was embarrassing. A college friend turned to me and said, “How did you come out of that school? Students are not allowed to talk about homosexuality at all? Students’ sex education ends at abstinence? They probably won’t be able to talk about evolution in biology class next. That’s just plain crazy.” And it was. Insane. Certifiably nuts. Yet, I loved my school and my teachers and my memories. How could this have happened?
So now as a teacher in a small town and a parent of two children in our fantastic district, I see parent participation as crucial. Each year, I encourage Geoff to run for the school board, but he is unreliable with time management during the winer season. We encourage other parents to run for positions when needed and attend budget hearings and other meetings. I’m also a member of our contract negotiations team for our education association. This has been an incredible learning process these last few contract cycles, and I feel more informed about the complex running of a school district. We appreciate the work our school board does tirelessly each year in public and non public sessions for our entire school community. Our school, both staff and administration, is fortunate to have a collaborative, positive working relationship with our board. Certainly, there have been years which have been more contentious than others, but we have excellent support for our school from the greater community.
With that said, we have five people running for three positions this year. My husband and I were discussing the four candidates who had registered to be on the ballot on evening during dinner and our 5 year old daughter asked what the school board was. I explained they help the school make decisions which are best for our students. She then observed that Tony, Brian, Mike, and Patrick were all “boys’ names” and asked if you had to be a boy to be on the school board. “Of course not!” I practically yelled across the table. “Erin, our neighbor is on the board,” I said, “and Jayne but she getting off this year.” She then lost interest in our school board conversation, yet her observation did make me sad. When I heard that another mom in town was interested in running for position as a write in candidate, I was excited to tell both our kids as I never want them to believe or assume women can’t hold leadership roles, even when they haven’t held that role necessarily before. Jasmine Weeden balances her career as a therapist with that of being a wife to Ryan and mom to Nora, Penelope, and baby Maple. She cares deeply for her family, this community, and the education of her young children.
Whether we live in a small town or a large city, we sometimes disagree, and occasionally people forget how to model honest, open dialogue for our young people– whether in person or in social media. Part of what I love about living up here is the fierce loyalty people have for their family and friends, and I’ve got to believe in the best of intentions of our neighbors– that we all want what is best for our children. Having more people run for the number of positions available is not a bad problem to have, unless you are members of the Christian Coalition, which is not the case here in Lincoln Woodstock. We are lucky.
Being a mom or dad with young kids is just as valid a reason to support someone has experience. Best of luck to all of our candidates tomorrow– and thank you parents and community members for voting and participating in our school district meeting. Remember, our children are watching and listening and learning always. Voting takes place from 2-6 PM and meeting begins at 7.