About 35 years ago, a school board candidate in Flagstaff announced he would not seek re-election.
A young newspaper reporter asked him why, to which he replied, tongue firmly in cheek, “So I can have friends again.”
His reply provided some comic relief, but it also shed some truth on the realities of serving on a local school board.
Especially here in the Verde Valley over the past year, it’s been tough – very tough – to be a school board member. School board members in both the Sedona-Oak Creek and Cottonwood-Oak Creek districts had to make the painful decision to close down school campuses. Members of the Mingus Union School Board had to deal with the scandal involving its baseball team, and the ultimate decision to not allow some of those students to continue their education at MUHS. Camp Verde board members had long, drawn-out contract negotiations with their former superintendent and their district currently is being led by an “administrator-in-charge” who also has to double as a campus principal.
And, of course, there’s school district consolidation.
That has been an especially brutal process for both Mingus Union and Cottonwood-Oak Creek board members.
Not to mention, unlike service on some local city and town councils, you do not get paid to serve on a local school board. To serve on a school board, you contribute long hours, you have to make agonizingly painful decisions. You get beat up in the court of public opinion. You are ridiculed on social media. And there’s no paycheck to pick up at the end of the day.
So, it comes as no surprise that we did not have an avalanche of candidates filing nominating petitions last week to serve on local school boards here in the Verde Valley. Nor is it a surprise that many incumbents’ names were missing from the list of those who did file the proper paperwork to have their names placed on the ballot.
In all, County School Superintendent Tim Carter said seven of the 10 school board elections in the Verde Valley will be canceled this November. Some of them have just enough candidates to fill the necessary positions up for election this fall. In others, Carter will have to fill positions by appointment. There is also the option of write-in candidacy for those who would want to serve.
Yes, the pickin’s are slim for school board candidates this fall.
It’s easy to understand why.
For those candidates who did gather petition signatures and file the necessary paperwork to have your name on the ballot – now, in many cases, all for naught as you will be placed on the school board by default -- thank you for stepping up to serve our schools and communities in the Verde Valley. We need more people like you. Your willingness to serve is admirable.
The same goes for those incumbents who have elected not to seek another term on their respective school boards. You took on a job that not many are willing to tackle. Your service is admired and respected.
And now, you have to remember that there is light at the end of what no doubt has at times been a dark tunnel.
You can have friends again.