I still believe that you can’t serve people if you don’t listen to them. As a school board member, I have pushed to increase the amount of interaction between the district and the community. We have seen more public forums, more surveys on important matters like consolidating campuses and preparing for a school bond, more opportunities to speak with administrators, and increased communication during board meetings–particularly during COVID.

I have pushed to increase student voice at the board level, and South Whidbey School Board now is one of the state leaders on our integration of student representatives on the board. We go beyond just having a student report, making sure the student representatives have a solid understanding of the matters before the school board and then giving them an advisory vote before every vote of the board.

There are new student advisory teams throughout the district as well, helping our superintendent and principals get a solid view of what matters to students. These opportunities for interaction with and to advise the leaders of the district can help the administrators make better decisions, and can give the students a stake in the process, leading to an increased sense of belonging at the district.

I make regular visits to the schools, talking to staff and students about what the board does, what we’re working on, and listening to their thoughts on the matters and what they’d like us to be working on. Those visits are some of the best parts of being a school director, as it’s a chance for direct input from staff and students, and I always come away inspired.

But there’s still more to do. I want to hold informal opportunities for school board members to sit down with the community every couple of months and talk to community members about what we’re working on and how they can get involved. I want to find better ways to reach out to the community when the district needs their input, and I want to make sure that the community doesn’t have to shout to be heard.