School Board Musings

It’s been a minute since I and eight others were selected by Mayor Kenney to serve on the School District of Philadelphia Board of Education, but I haven’t yet had the chance to blog through my thoughts on this momentous opportunity.  The School District itself just posted a nice Q&A-style piece about me, through which I was able to say a lot of what was on my heart.  I’ll only add a few more musings here:

* Amid all the congratulatory and encouraging words sent my way since the announcement were a lot of parents who half-jokingly but half-seriously looked me in the eye and basically said, “hey, don’t f$#@! this up.”  Which I appreciate.  After all, isn’t that what’s good about local accountability?

* That said, one thing that has been impressed upon me is that the sheer size of the task at hand – 203,000 kids, a $3 billion annual operating budget, the well-being of an entire generation of Philadelphians AND the future reputation of the region as a place that is growing and that benefits all – necessarily means that we are all in this together.  The Board has a special part to play, for sure, but everyone – businesses, non-profits, government, residents, taxpayers, parents – we all need to do all we can for our kids.

* Speaking of which, I am so thankful for public servants past and present who have taken the time so far during our orientation period to help us, by providing us with administrative support, subject matter expertise, and emotional support.  I take seriously the deep debt I am in, that I will be honored to pay forward someday.

* Some of what we will do as board members will be fun and celebratory.  But some will be hard, controversial, and deeply unpopular.  Both will be necessary to putting the School District in the best position possible to serve its students.  I accept that there will be both commendations and condemnations headed my way from many directions, and receive them from a place of appreciating the passion people have for public education and the willingness they have to voice it and fight for it, and in a spirit of hopefulness that whether we agree or disagree we are all in this together for the sake of our kids.

* Lastly, I’ll end by saying that this new position of mine is a very publicly prominent one.  I am used to living my life knowing that I am being watched – by my children, my co-workers, and colleagues for whom I serve as a role model – but this is a level and constancy of scrutiny that is new to me.  It will take some adjustment, and it will not be easy at times (especially when I am having an introverted moment), but I accept that as part of my responsibility and also as part of the opportunity I have to make a difference.

* On a related note, it doesn't escape me that with this new visibility comes the opportunity to (if I may use a Christian word) testify to the things that are important in my life, for which I am excited and focused to properly represent.  It has been surreal, for example, to be able to speak my deepest held understandings of faith in action (as learned from the Bible and forged through painful hardship) to top city leaders and local media.

Wish me luck!  And pray for me, and for those who serve with me, and most of all for our kids, all 203,000 of them, all precious, all growing up right before our eyes.  We have a lot of challenges in front of us because they have a lot of challenges in front of them.  May we all, by God’s grace, be ready to face those challenges.

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