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Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

Dear Editor,

These are challenging days for public education nationwide and here at home in Holyoke. Highly effective governance is needed now more than ever, which brings me to the purpose for my correspondence.

Nov. 1, 2011 is the date for the regular Biennial School Board Election. The call for nominations will be the first week of August, and petitions will be available shortly thereafter for those interested in running for a seat on the Re-1J Board of Education.

The skills that I believe are needed for an effective school board director include solid interpersonal skills, good communication skills, trustworthiness, honesty, confidentiality, consistency and any other skill that allows for effective communications and team-oriented problem solving.

Concern for the entire school district and not just a personal concern or narrow philosophy is also crucial. Let’s face it: Most of us have a special concern or favorite issue within the schools. This is fine and passion for a cause can be a real asset for the potential candidate, but in the end the school board member must also have a broad view of the district he or she has been elected to govern.

Every program offered by the school has value or it should not be offered. Good board members recognize that and try to build them all to their highest level of quality.

Individual school board members have little power. But by working together as a “corporate body” with the superintendent and with other groups involved in the district, virtually anything is possible for the school board as a whole.

State law requires very few qualifications for service as a school board member. Some individuals are elected with more immediate knowledge and skills than others. But in my experience, no member, regardless of occupation, intelligence or personal skills, knows all he/she needs upon election. Those board members who approach their jobs with a commitment to fill those knowledge and skill gaps more effectively serve their school district and community.

As any school board member will tell you, school board service is much broader, much more challenging and even much more rewarding than solving a single problem. School board service involves balancing a complex set of community values that affect education. This requires listening, collaboration and give-and-takes within the school district and within the community as a whole.

Serving on a school board can be one of the most rewarding challenges any citizen could hope for. The system works best when able and committed people step forward and serve their community. If ever there was a time when quality leadership was needed, it is now.

Dan Kafka
Re-1J Board of Education

Holyoke Enterprise June 16, 2011