It's a question I've been asked, both directly and indirectly, since I started this campaign. Why bother? Why would you want to be on the School Board? My friends have asked. My family has asked. And at this point in the campaign, even I have to ask. Why do I want to put myself through this?
I have it pretty good right now. I am doing some good work on the Chamber of Commerce Education Committee. I guided the restart of the HHS Alumni Association and am conducting a pretty comprehensive and innovative survey/market research project on our school system, which are two of the things I've wanted to see happen for a long time. I can work toward progress in our schools from the outside and not have to go through the trouble of getting elected to the School Board.
I could be spending my evenings playing with the kids before they go to bed, or working on the old house we just bought that we are trying fixing up. I could have spent the hundreds of dollars on a mini-vacation or on Christmas gifts for my beautiful wife, rather than on yard signs and brochures.
I could have taken the easy route and just continued trying to work for change through the Education Committee and the Alumni Association. But that's not good enough. I feel, and so many people I have talked to feel, that we need a change in leadership on this School Board. We need new ideas. We need more than just a board that approves regular business and occasionally hires a superintendent. We need people that aren't just on the board because some people are afraid of change. We don't need people that only know how to ask, "Why?" We need people that only know how to ask, "Why not?" And we need people that want to be members of the Humboldt Board of Education because they are making the most important investment of their lives in our schools: their own children's education.
That's why I bother. That's why I spend every waking minute thinking about how I can convince people in Ward 4 that I am the right man for the job or thinking about ways I can bring about improvement once I'm on there. That's why I get out there and knock on doors when I really want to be at home watching Veggie Tales with my daughter. I'm not doing this because I have some political ambition, and I'm not doing this for some sort of prestige or power trip. This is School Board, by and large the most thankless and dead-end political position out there.
I say this a lot, but I think it's important to point out again, that I decided to run for this office over a year ago. I have been attending School Board meetings for a couple of years, and I knew this was something I wanted to do long before petitions were picked up in May. I never knew it would be this difficult, largely because I was assured until May that I would not have to run against the incumbent. But even when he changed his mind and decided to run for another term, there was never a question of whether I was still going to run. Even then I thought, "too many people in this town are fed up with our schools to re-elect the same person again."
I've run across some sentiment that I shouldn't run against Mr. Lewis because he's a nice guy and it's not a very nice thing to do. These local elections are tough because they inevitably pit neighbors and friends against each other, and that's what keeps many good candidates from putting their name in the hat. Well, I say that is exactly what is wrong with local government a lot of times. We shouldn't have people running unopposed election after election because we don't want to hurt any one's feelings. We shouldn't vote for people because we go to church together or drink coffee together in the mornings. This is too important to be a popularity contest.
If this wasn't important to me, if I didn't have a burning desire to do some good for my alma mater and my children's future schools, I certainly wouldn't subject myself to this. It's difficult to see the other guy's sign in the yard of someone I thought supported me. It's difficult to try to unseat the 30-year incumbent when I have to first let people know who I am before I can even get to the point of asking them to vote for me. But if this was a cake walk, everybody would do it.
I am not afraid of defeat. I know that if I lose this election, there are still ways I can work for improvement. I know that the School Board will remain largely the same as it is now. If I lose I will simply be disappointed that we weren't ready to embrace change. Change for the sake of change is not what we need, but I don't think many people in Humboldt are content with declining enrollment, apathy in the community, below-average test scores, and horrible reputation. I think we're all tired of being the butt of jokes and having our property values perpetually stagnant or worse, declining, because of the perception of our schools. I'm not running for School Board because I think I can snap my fingers and change all that overnight. I am running for School Board because I know things will never change until we get people in there that are willing to think outside the box and come up with ideas to start the long, uphill climb toward success.
Humboldt Schools are not what they used to be, but I still believe in what they can be. That's why I bother. Let's all bother to trust our schools to the next generation of leadership, to someone that has a long-term vested interest in their success.