Reflection: the Year(s) in Review

February 2017: this is the midway point in my five-year term as Parent Representative on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Governor Deval Patrick appointed me in August 2014, and as a sitting, twice-elected School Committee member at the time, Massachusetts General Laws required that I step down from that role in order to accept my new role on the State Board.

Coming in, I knew there'd be differences, although, arranged around the table as we are with the Commissioner, the State Board looks very much like a School Committee sitting with their Superintendent and, insofar as both bodies create policy and hire and evaluate their department leader, that's understandable thinking. However, the work is not the same (and I have a whole, new appreciation for elected School Committees and their work). It's not that decisions are "easier" or "harder"; a locally elected policymaker and advocate sees and hears steadily from residents about how their decisions impact locally. That local impact from community members is what's missing from my appointed role and that, apparently, is by design. To the degree that parliamentary procedure is acknowledged and recognized, we have some discretion.

Still, no other State Board of Education reserves a seat for a parent's perspective and it's a privilege to be that parent with a voice in the decisions being made here.

A decision I made when coming on Board was to communicate via this blog to parents, educators, and others about what it's like to sit at that table and to share some of my thoughts about it. Many of my twitter and Facebook followers have made a point of telling me how much they appreciate hearing from that perspective, since they know of no one else doing it. I've been reflecting on that decision, and on my public life; here's what's worth sharing, halfway through my term:
  • Public Service and Volunteerism are alive and well in local, state, & national roles. In addition to serving on the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, I continue serving as an elected rep from my neighborhood to Town Meeting. My State Board colleagues nominated me, then, at the annual conference in October 2015, representatives from 10 NASBE states elected me as Northeast Area Director to the NASBE Board of Directors. That was a bonus bit of involvement I could not have anticipated at the time of my appointment. It's rewarding to see so many interested in my NASBE posts, especially when they juxtapose with issues locally and statewide. Since we are in the period of transition to a new White House administration (DeVos) and to a new education law (ESSA), it is, as they say, "interesting times". Decisions made at national and state levels have the most impact when they resonate locally.
  • Online & Offline Life: balance lies in dropping on and off. Facebook friends are the longest suffering, so I encourage people to follow my Facebook page instead. Twitter followers will give me a poke (if I've been away so long that they've actually noticed) and have reached out to be sure I wasn't too ill to tweet. Instagram is a nice place to spend some time, too.
  • Upshot: I'm not nearly as courageous as I'd like to be. Reflecting back on that statement reveals that I've sought clarity about what matters and have been willing to step out of my comfort zone. Also, that I'm resilient to keep going in spite of it all. When I'm feeling pressure "to be more courageous", I've discovered that if I focus less on the action itself ("What's the bold action I can take here?") and more on the relationship ("Who matters most to me here?"), then bold action is much more clear. From there, it's much easier to understand the thing that I seek to do.