The importance of our school boards


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Washington, Missouri has municipal elections on April 5, 2022, where voters will decide who will be the next mayor of Washington, several ward representatives, and who will fill two open seats on the school district of Washington’s school board. Members of the board have 3-year terms, with members Jason Oesterly and Matt Wilson’s terms expiring this year. Oesterly has opted not to run again, but Wilson will be on the ballot vying to be elected to another term. Wilson is joined by challengers Kelly Brinkmann, Trish Mitchell, Maryanne Scaniosharp, Chantell Unnerstall, and former Washington High School principal Frank Wood. The top two candidates with the most votes will fill the vacancies on the board. 

With the election just around the corner it is worth mentioning that just about 2,300 eligible voters cast their votes for the school board elections last year according to the emissourian. With six candidates in the running, every vote will matter, and the top two candidates are likely to win by slim margins. So in a race like this, it is important to know who and what you are voting for. 

Our school boards are vital to the success of our communities and the future of our youth. They enact the policies, approve the projects, and in some cases directly hire the educators for a school district. Being a representative is a great responsibility, one which is often put to the test. Schools across the country have been fighting the effects of the pandemic, which has exacerbated the teacher shortages that are straining the education system. Moreover, school boards have become the frontlines of national debates regarding covid policies, “critical race theory,” transgender athleticism, and more. These divisive issues unfortunately receive more interest from average constituents than the monetary or practical concerns over education. As important as these issues are, discussions on them are rarely constructive, as goes with politics. 

The pressure on the school system and a drifting isolation from communities is causing many teachers to burn out in face of criticism for education’s shortcomings. This only adds to the issues of teacher pay and support which are already prominent contributors to the teacher shortage. The impact of the shortage has been felt as districts try to recover from setbacks which occurred during the covid pandemic. Combatting learning loss, which had been at the focus of organizations like Edutopia at the beginning of the pandemic, and resocializing students especially at the middle school level has been a challenge for schools. According to Edutopia as the 2019-2020 school year came to an end, the “top third” of students were projected to make “learning gains” in the area of reading as opposed to the remainder of their peers. This and similar trends in other areas such as mathematics are influenced by a lack of resources for some disadvantaged students who may require accommodations or other means of support. Said resources which, due to school closures and the pandemic, were few and far between. 

The buckling of the education system is why when considering who to elect to the school board, think in the big picture of who will help your district as a whole. Consider who will work constructively with other members of the administration, individual school staff, and parents to see the needs of those in our district are met. Consider who may take a proactive approach to preventing teacher turnover, and will be a friend for our school staff to depend on. If we allow ourselves to blame our educators for the failings of the educational system, as trends show, then soon we’ll be drained of our professional educators. And surely that is a future for our students, that we should all act on to avoid.