Let’s Talk ESP Blog: Accountability
Education Support Professional
WEAC ESP-at-Large Board Director
Finally, the Spring elections are over! The campaign phone calls, the mailers, the emails – done! Or is it? We used to have election days, then it was election cycles, and now it seems as though when one election is over, the next one officially begins. But the truth is, no matter where we are in the election process, what happens after each election is just as important as the election itself.
We all know how important it was to elect a quality Wisconsin State Supreme Court judge, and we did just that. That affects all of us as important decisions are made, some of which can have an impact on public education. The most critical election that affected each of us personally, however, were the School Board elections. These affect us most directly – where we work.
Regardless of whether or not your preferred School Board candidates won their election, all of them must be held accountable. This is a critical area where our Local unions must get involved, because too often our School Board members get filtered information that does not include the voice of those who are the experts, the ones who work directly with students. They will make their decisions based on the information they receive from District administrations, if we don’t dedicate time and effort to educate them on what’s really going on. Only in this way can we hold them truly accountable.
Now, more than ever, we must be diligent in keeping in tune with the decisions School Boards across the country are making that affect our public schools – Parents Bill of Rights, banning books, limiting our ability to work with the students where they are socially and emotionally. Education Support Professionals (ESP) see the impact of these decisions in our daily work with the students. We see how these decisions affect how teachers teach in the classrooms. We see how it affects the environment we work in each day.
This is where we actually have an advantage, with the majority of ESP also being members of the community in which they work. Not only can we speak to our School Board members as front line employees, but we also can speak to them as parents and citizens of our public school communities.
And speak, we must, because we need to make sure that those elected to do what’s in the best interest of students, do just that. We must hold them accountable for the policies they establish, and the guidelines they ask us to follow in our everyday work. We must hold them accountable for where they are spending the money. We must hold them accountable for making sure history is taught as it actually happened. We must hold them accountable for making sure that when we work with our students, we have the ability to respect who they are. And we must hold them accountable for making sure that they are fighting for full funding of our public schools, and not sending more and more money out of the District to privately run schools.
When they don’t make decisions that are in the best interest of students, we must speak up to educate them on why. We must help them to understand the realities of the day-to-day work we do. We must organize around important issues, when critical decisions are being made that limit our ability to be effective in our work. This is what Unions do – we organize, we educate, we speak to power in order to level the playing field.
I urge all of you to get involved with your local School Board.
Have your Local union schedule people to be at every School Board Meeting and report back to everyone on decisions made, or important information discussed.
Write letters regularly to your school board members, or speak at a board meeting if they allow public comment, when something important is being decided.
Have coffee with a school board member and just talk about how things really are.
Always pay attention to the people around you – if they have the qualities you want to see in a School Board member, tell them early and often you think they should run for a seat.
There are so many things we can do, big and small, to work with our School Boards. I would welcome ideas or questions you may have about what ways we can impact and hold our School Board members accountable. Let’s Talk!
Gail Kablau is the WEAC Education Support Professional (ESP)-at-Large Board Representative. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.