Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Four seats are up for grabs in DD2’s school board election this year.
Chairwoman Gail Hughes and secretary Tanya Robinson are running for re-election; Vice Chairman Charles Stoudenmire and member Frances Townsend have opted not to run again, meaning at least two new faces will join the board.
Filing for board members’ seats ends on July 15. Potential candidates must turn in a petition of 250 signatures by registered voters to the Dorchester Board of Elections and Voter Registration by noon that day.
In preparation for the race, board members have provided input on what potential candidates should expect when they join the board.
All board members agree that candidates should be aware of how time-consuming being on the board can be.
“As a board member you can put as much time or as little time as you see needed,” Hughes said. “I am one of those people that, in order for me to do a good job, I feel that I have to learn all aspects before I make a decision.”
The board holds regular sessions twice a month. Board member Barbara Crosby said sometimes it can be even more than that.
“There is more than meeting twice a month. Sometimes we meet for our five times a week to get the problem solved,” she said.
Hughes added that most members serve on at least two committees that also meet once a month.
“There is always something going on that board members will be involved in,” she said.
Robinson said she puts in about 20 hours a week or more for the school board.
“It’s like a part-time job,” she said.
Highs and lows
Robinson compares being on school board to riding a roller coaster.
“As long as you love roller coaster you’ll love being on the school board,” Robinson said.
Robinson, who has served four years on the board, said some of the pros of being on the school board are seeing things like watching little children begin kindergarten, or attending high school graduations and participating in award nights.
The lows are watching students dropping out of school or acting out in a way that causes them to be expelled. Then there are times when Robinson leaves a board meeting feeling like maybe not everyone was in compete agreement after hours of discussion.
Nevertheless, Robinson said being on the board is very fulfilling, which is why she is running again.
“I am going to run – but only one more time,” she said. “In eight years I feel like I will have given a lot of service but it will be someone else’s turn.”
Board member Lisa Tupper said one negative to being on the board is having people criticize things they do without knowing the background or having all the details.
“It gets frustrating to hear people bash us,” she said. “We do try and get the full picture of things before we make a decision that is the best one for our students. Of course, we aren’t perfect and I understand we will never be able to please everyone.”
Crosby said time-management is one of the cons to being on the board, saying board members pretty much have to be “on call” and act whenever needed. That aspect, however, does not thwart Crosby.
“I enjoy it, I just love it,” she said. “I love talking to the public and the community. It still gives me a chance to be in touch with the kids since I’m retired.”
Each board member takes pride in something that has been accomplished from serving on the school board.
Charles Stoudenmire has been on the school board for eight years. When he started, DD2’s graduation rate was relatively low. Now, it’s almost 81 percent, above the state rate of 77.5 percent.
“We do everything for one reason: academic achievement,” he said. “Every child has the right to be successful. Our graduation rate is getting much better, but there’s still a lot to do to make it even better.”
Hughes said one thing she is really proud of is how the board managed to build relationships with government entities – such as when the school board was proactive is getting the bill signed to waive the make-up days for school at the end of May.
Hughes is also proud of the relationships DD2 has made with the Chamber of Commerce as well as other community organizations.
“I think communication is a big key,” she said.
Frances Townsend has been on the board 16 years and is not running again. Since she has been on the board, Townsend said six schools have been built in the district. She added that passing the bond referendum to build the new schools was a major accomplishment for the board as well.
“I think we have a fantastic group of people,” Townsend said. “I really enjoy working with them.”
Townsend said a big thing prospective candidates need to be aware of is knowing how to compromise and communicate with the other board members.
“You need to listen to them and work out your differences so that children can benefit,” she said.
Stoudenmire said the public will always ask questions to the board – and they have the right to do so.
“You don’t have a responsibility to answer ‘yes’ to everything they question about,” he said. “There’s a difference between saying ‘yes’ and ‘I’ll consider it.’”
Stoudenmire said the same thing goes for when board members are having a discussion amongst themselves.
“At least give me a chance to speak,” he said. “Respect what I have to say and have that consideration.”
When the new board members join after the election, the biggest thing they are going to have to start dealing with is the school construction.
“They’re going to have to jump in swimming,” Robinson said. “You will start laps immediately.”
Board members say there will be lots of meetings as construction progresses, and there are still other things about the new schools to sort out – such as school colors, mascots, etc.
“There’s continuous involvement,” Hughes said. “There are several things that we have to make decisions on.”
Both Robinson and Hughes hope to still be on the board in order to watch the building project come to a finish.
“Hopefully they (new members) would know that they need to be getting involved or check into the building project so they are already abreast on things,” Hughes said.
Crosby added the district is constantly working on safety for the students, which is why many of the schools are undergoing renovations this summer for new security entrances.
“You never can tell when we’re going to have one of those disasters you hear about in schools,” she said.
All board members find serving the district’s students very rewarding.
“My gosh, you’re helping more than 23,000 children,” Robinson said. “What an honor it is to be a decision-maker for those children.”
Hughes grew up in Summerville and was a student in DD2, and is also a DD2 parent. She feels being on the board is an opportunity to give back to the community and be involved with something that pertained to her love for children.
“I felt like I could be an asset and bring in some new ideas and new perspectives,” she said. “I think in eight years I can certainly see some accomplishments we made.”
Board members said having a commitment to the district’s parents, teachers and, above all, students will make someone a good board member.
“It’s a commitment to our community and to the children, and if you’re going to be a good board member you have to be willing to give that effort,” Stoudenmire said, adding, “I do what’s best for the children. That’s my first priority.”
Tupper said she greatly appreciates the district’s employees.
“This comes from not only seeing/hearing what other districts experience but from seeing the things our people do daily,” she said. “I leave board meetings feeling so proud of our schools.”
Board member Sam Clarke was not available for comment as of press time.