My daughter attends our neighborhood public school in St. Louis County. She loves it. I love it for her. So, why do I care about what’s happening in City schools? I care deeply for a couple of reasons: I recognize that my daughter has many advantages in her school simply because of where she lives. I don’t think that’s fair. I believe a good education allows students who have no other choices a chance to become something different then what they’ve grown up believing. I believe we should all care what’s happening in schools even if our kids don’t attend them because these are the kids who are going to be working for us someday.
If you live in the City of St. Louis, or probably any metropolitan city for that matter, it doesn’t take long to figure out that our public schools are in critical need of change. Public charter schools provide an alternative choice in the City of St. Louis and we have had the pleasure of working with a couple of them.
Starting a charter school is not for the faint of heart. Why another school? How will it be different? Why should anyone believe in us? Who is going to sponsor us? Who is going to be on our executive team? Who is going to teach? Why would a child want to come to our school? How are we going to meet state academic requirements? Do we need a board? What does a board do? How are we going to be great? The amount of work and the number of questions that need to be answered is extraordinary.
In our work with charter schools, we have seen many of the same issues coming up around the board and how it operates. The first board is often filled with the same people who wanted to start the school or sometimes it’s people who have never served on a board but are friends of the founder.
Are they well-intentioned? Absolutely.
Is their heart in the right place? No question.
Our experience has been that well intentioned and heartfelt aren’t enough. While you may start around the table as friends and colleagues, real decisions need to be made and issues come up that require clear, unbiased thinking in order to move the school forward. When the person sitting across the table has been a friend of yours for a long time, judgement can easily get clouded and feelings get hurt and you know who suffers? Your school. The kids who attend your school. he parents who are desperately looking for a good education for their child.
Finding good committee members and board members are critical to the success of a school.
I’ve spoken with two separate schools in the last week who are looking for committee members and board members. I could hear the worry in their voices as they talked about the work that needs to be done now, what they’re hoping to accomplish in the next year and then about their long-term goals. It’s totally overwhelming. Yes they need funding, but that wasn’t their main concern. Their main concern was finding people who care about changing the state of education in their community, cultivating relationships with individuals who will bring their expertise to the table, who will ask hard questions, who may challenge their current thinking in a positive way.
I believe education is the key. If more people don’t start taking an active role, it’s not going to change. Our schools are under an immense amount of pressure and need our help as community members, as neighbors, as parents, and as concerned citizens who want to make their corner of the world better.
I challenge you to get involved with a school that needs YOUR help. Ask questions. Join a committee. Join a board. Finding an organization that can use your specific talents and that will be a good match for your personality and availability is critical; we recognize that. If you need help or aren’t sure where to go, call us. We’ll be glad to help you find a place that’s a good fit.