Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Are You Good with Numbers?

Election rules are very detailed with strict deadlines to be followed. Time is fast running out for anyone interested in having their name on the November 2009 ballot for the position on the Swanton Board of Education.

For those considering tossing their hat into the ring (there will be 3 board positions to fill), here are a few questions to ask yourself that might help you decide whether or not to run for this office.

How do you make decisions in your personal life? For example, if you are single, how do you treat the forgetful waitress at your favorite restaurant? If you are married, do you prefer to maintain open and solid communication channels with your spouse or do you prefer to manipulate things behind the scenes? If you have children, do you make decisions with their ultimate well-being in mind or do you find yourself deciding by default, when they whine enough or complain enough that you give in to their immature demands just to shut them up? (it is appalling how many people "parent" this way)

How well do you get along with your extended family? Every family has a few folks that are difficult to get along with - how do you handle it? Do you avoid them and look for ways to keep them out of any decision making process, or do you include them even though you figure you probably won't see eye-to-eye on the issue? In other words, do you treat them fairly and with respect - even when they are arrogant and obstinate or bellicose? Have you ever worked with a group of people of disparate character traits or have you been somewhat isolated by owning your own business or confined to an office? Are you honest to the core, or are you willing to shade things just a bit to get your own way?

Those are interpersonal skills that can quickly come into play in a school board position. But there are other skills that are also very important.

How much and how well do you read? That might seem like an odd thing to ask, but - trust me - there is a TON of reading that needs to be done each and every month if you expect to make informed and intelligent decisions that affect the district and its funds. Those who just hate to read might want to think twice about running for this office.

Do you balance your checkbook at home? Do you at least know HOW to balance your checkbook?

How do you handle your home expenses? Do you know how to live within your means or are you in debt up to your eyebrows? Have you ever planned ahead for a large expense so that when it came along you were able to pay for it - or did you just melt the plastic again?

The thing about being on a school board is that you are spending OTHER people's money - not just your own. You are on a board that has to spend millions of tax dollars very carefully so as to get the best result for our kids. And it is not as easy as it may look. There are many government mandates that come with directives - but no funding. Some expenses are able to be reined in without too much fuss, but others are completely out of your control, such as the price of gas or electricity.

Huge and unexpected expenses might hit - which is one reason the state requires a certain percentage level of carry-over funds to be maintained. Dipping too far into that state-mandated cushion is what put our district into "fiscal caution" several years ago. Not a good place to be.

And EVERYBODY knows how to do your job better than You! Oh yes! Make no mistake - every single person in this district has an opinion on how things should be done, and very few are hesitant to share that opinion with you in the most graphic terms. Never mind that they might not have all the facts at their disposal like you do - they know exactly what needs to be done, and get quite angry if you don't agree.

Matter of fact, there have been some quality people in this position who refused to run for a second term because they had taken so much abuse when they were in office from those they had considered to be friends.

Will you continue to feel comfortable shopping at the local Kroger after you're in office, or will you find yourself driving just a bit further to get groceries so as to avoid the possible keying of your car and other small acts of vandalism from your faithful constituents?

Will you be upset when your kids come home from school with the latest angry gossip from their friends about the stupid decision made by the board? Will you take it in stride when someone rigs a bomb in your mailbox? (yes - all of these things have happened)

Do you have a personal agenda that you believe you can institute by getting elected to the school board? Have any axes to grind? Remember: you will be only one vote out of five. Mighty hard to push through an agenda alone.

All potential candidates should think carefully about their reasons for running for a school board position. We need good people!! I don't want to scare anyone - but it is important for those considering placing their name on the ballot to know these things.

You need to be a good reader. You need to be good with numbers and financial reports and forecasting. You need to be good with people, even those that strongly disagree with you.

Just remember: even Superman had people crabbing about him! You will never be able to please everyone at once - most times, there will be many more annoyed with you than not. And the entire district depends on you, so you can't cater to one group over another. Your responsibility is to the entire district. Nothing less.

So - after considering all of that - are you interested? We could use 3 good people!!

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