New school board members step up

By Dr. Marci Larsen, Superintendent | Jan 04, 2012

Each January, school districts throughout the state take time to celebrate and thank the people who serve on school boards, the primary governing body of local public schools.

While the people in the community vote school board members into office, most probably are not aware of what a school board member actually does. With this being School Board Appreciation Month, now is the perfect time to tell you about the valuable role they play in educating the children in this community.

There are five people on the school board, with each representing one of five director districts within the school district service area. Although they represent one district, they are elected to four-year terms in office by all of the voters within the school district.

Board members do receive some pay for their work, but given the hours they devote to the task, it really could be considered a volunteer position. They receive a per diem of $50 per meeting and for other official duties that cannot exceed a total of $4,800 during the year.

The board conducts its business in open public meetings that are usually held twice a month, but also spend a great deal of time reading reports to keep informed, attending statewide meetings and getting involved in legislative matters.

They also often attend school events to stay connected and visible within the community.

Three people have joined our school board within the past few months, all with a strong background in the business world.

John Gahagan, who has a child currently attending Kamiak, was appointed to one of our board seats in October.

Two new members were voted to our school board in November: Michael Simmons, also the parent of a Kamiak student, and Ron Johnson, a volunteer of the Chamber of Commerce and the Mukilteo Kiwanis Club.

The three new members join existing board members Jeff Thorp, who has served on the board since 2005, and Judy Schwab, the veteran board member, having been first elected in 1997.  

School board members come from all walks of life, but typically share a common belief in the importance of public education and have a passion for children.

They are primarily responsible for following the laws of the state, adopting school district policies, developing the school district’s mission statement and adopting goals, approving the budget, and hiring and evaluating the superintendent, who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the district.  

One common misperception about school board members relates to their authority. Each board member will tell you that they receive phone calls asking all sorts of favors, but as an individual, board members can’t hire a teacher, fire a coach, change the math curriculum, get a student on an Individualized Education Plan, get an athlete on the school team, or get special treatment for their own child. Their power only comes collectively, when at least three of them agree to do something.

Being a school board member takes a commitment of long hours for little pay, but each one will tell you that the task is very satisfying.

If you see one of our school members at the grocery store or elsewhere in the community, don’t hesitate to thank them for the work they are doing for our schools.
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