Undoubtedly, some are more exciting than others, but knowing where someone comes from usually explains a lot about who they are.
When running for public office, the most often asked question is “Why are you running?” Now that our campaigns for the Mahomet – Seymour school board have begun, that is the question most people start with.
While our story might not catch the eye of the Heads at Marvel, we think it is an important story to tell.
First, it might be important to point out that although we are telling this story as a group, all of us have individual reasons for running, and different viewpoints on lots of different topics. However, since the question “Are you running as a slate?” seems to keep coming up, we want to address that question as well.
All of us have kids in the Mahomet-Seymour school district.
Some of our kids have graduated from the district, some have not yet begun, and some of our kids in the middle of their school careers.
In one way or another, we have been active in the schools by volunteering in classrooms and joining school centered organizations like the PTO. Some of us have spent lots of time in the schools advocating for kids and making sure their needs are met. This hands-on involvement in the schools has made each of us passionate about issues that affect the kids and teachers of our district.
Like many of you, we are in this community because the reputation of the Mahomet-Seymour schools appealed to us as we decided the environment, we wanted our children to grow up in. Of course, we want our children to receive the best possible education, but things like school culture, community involvement and extra-curricular opportunities are also important.
Through volunteering and advocating, the four of us started bumping into each other over and over at different school functions throughout recent years.
Meghan and Ken met while serving on the board of the K-5 Mahomet-Seymour PTO. Ken and Julie know each other through the work they do to help foster kids and foster families. Meghan and Colleen and Ken kept seeing the others at the school board meetings very regularly over the last two and a half years.
When you see people in the same places all the time, you share stories about your life, which often, leads to discussions about how things are going in school, sports, activities and life in general.
As we listened to each other and watched school board meetings over a two-year period, we realized we were all bringing up the same topics: concerns about a lack of transparency and understanding how decisions were being made by the school board, a history of unanimous voting with little to no discussion taking place in the meetings before those votes, concerns we were hearing from other parents and teachers about things happening in the classrooms, on the buses and in the schools, issues concerning safety, dissatisfaction with communication between the school district, the parents and community and concerns about the amount of turnover taking place at all levels throughout the district.
At one time or another, many of us have prepared statements, questions and solutions for school board members to consider. While we genuinely wanted to understand what was changing within our school district and engage in the process as mandated by law, we received zero response during the meetings, and then weeks later, opened letters from the school board containing no more than thanking us for our time.
We began to get the feeling that our opinions were not wanted, and even that we should not be expressing them at all. For all of us, this felt like the opposite of what a school board is supposed to do.
What is more, because of our involvement in the schools, many in the community were reaching out to us to express their concerns and voice their disappointment with many of the issues that we were already talking about.
It was at this point that we all realized that there was an opportunity to change many of these things; and that was by running for school board.
So here we are today, candidates in one of the most contested school board elections in memory. We are trying to find our way through the campaign process. But we aren’t just candidates; we are people who genuinely want to meet with Mahomet-Seymour constituents to better understand what is important to them so we can be effective representatives of the community and its collective interests.
We each feel that what is important is to understand what the community needs; kids, teachers, taxpayers, parents, business owners. Then our role as a school board member would charge us with setting priorities that reflect what those groups tell us is important.
So now we are back to the “running as a slate” question.
We have had many long and thoughtful discussions about this approach. On the one hand, we know that the priorities that each of us has as an individual when it comes to kids and teachers are in line.
However, we also believe that what makes a strong board is diversity of opinions, education, experience and family composition to name a few. When solutions are a product of lots of different viewpoints and experiences, they are often stronger, more inclusive and more thought out. So, we don’t consider ourselves a slate, but we feel we are four independent people who would work well together on a balanced board.
Any board’s purpose is to ensure that representation from many different schools of thoughts and backgrounds is present. We all agree that if elected, it is inevitable that we will disagree and that votes should not and most likely will not be unanimous. We believe that respectful dissent is a sign of a healthy, representative board. We understand that agreeing on everything is very different from supporting a majority decision.
We are all committed to supporting the majority vote for any decision that is made in line with the priorities of the community, but that often the dissent is an important part of the checks and balances of any system. Our own Supreme Court always rules with the majority rule and then takes the time to publish the dissenting opinion; why? We think it is because remembering the other side of a situation or policy provides the check that balances any decision.
So now you are caught up on our origin story.
We will be working hard between now and April 2 to connect with as many of you as we can so that we understand what is important to you. We want to represent kids and teachers and the community. We believe that open, honest two-way communication is the only real way to do that.
Please reach out to us with anything you’d like to discuss. Please ask us our opinions. We all have different thoughts on topics and that’s why we’d like you to get to know all of us individually. We know that we work well together and feel like we are well practiced on having meaningful discussions around the important topics for our district, now the only missing piece is you.