Everyone in the community benefits when neighborhood public schools are strong and students are successful. Great schools are good business. They attract employers, strengthen the local economy and enhance property values. Great schools ensure our students will be prepared to keep our nation competitive in a global economy. Great schools keep the American Dream alive with opportunity for every child to receive a world-class education. Great schools keep the quality of life in a community high by producing citizens who pay taxes and obey the law. Great schools teach students from all backgrounds how to live and participate in our democracy.
School board members are the elected representatives within the community whose job it is to ensure that great schools are available to all students in the district and that the community’s vision for its young people is brought to life. School board members set expectations for student achievement, support district success through setting goals and the allocation of resources, and, in doing so, work to strengthen the communities they serve. They make decisions that determine how a community’s children will be educated and how tax dollars are spent.
For 18 years, I have had the privilege of serving as a member of the governing board of Mesa Public Schools. In that time, I have had the opportunity to sit at the board table beside individuals with differing backgrounds and experience, knowledge and points of view. What I have come to know in my time on the board is this: Collective vision and unified leadership are what ultimately lead to student success. That’s true at the board table, and it’s true for our communities as well.
Great schools are the result of community effort and, in turn, a reflection of community priorities. Research confirms this. Studies show that, almost without exception, highly successful schools and school districts have a mission that is genuinely lived and widely known – not just on school grounds, but throughout the community.
Numerous opportunities exist for community members in the East Valley to get involved in building strong communities through strong schools. Some run for school board. Others volunteer in classrooms. Businesses contribute financially, as well as through their expertise or in-kind donations.
One first step we can all take is to vote in the upcoming election. Your investment of time to do so will pay dividends for our students. I encourage you to learn about those who are running for your local school board and their vision for student success, carefully consider the school district bond and override measures on your ballot, and look at the statewide propositions on this November’s ballot that will provide resources to all Arizona’s public schools – and to do so with that understanding that great schools are my business – and they’re yours, too.
Michael Hughes is president of the Arizona School Boards Association and a governing board member for Mesa Unified School District.