Petitions for potential candidates for the 3 annual seats up for election on the Hoboken Public School District’s Board of Education are due this coming Monday, July 25th. To file a petition and be eligible to run for one of the three seats up this year (and every year), you must, among other things, have at least 10 signatures on your completed petition, have lived in Hoboken for no less than one year, be a registered voter, and be at least 18 years of age. Those who are ultimately elected to the Board of Education will be required to clear a background check, be fingerprinted and undergo ethics training.
There is no requirement for a candidate to be a parent of a child in the school district or at all, nor is there a requirement for a candidate to have any sort of background in education. Candidates are required to be able to read and write, but are not required to have a certain level of education themselves nor any sort of or certain degrees. Thus, there is very little that is formally required to run for or be elected to a seat on the Board of Education. In my opinion, however, to perform the duties of a Board of Education Trustee the way it deserves to be discharged, a candidate needs some very specific characteristics.
I believe you need a true passion for the promise of public education for all and a desire to continually strive to represent that notion and goal. You need to believe in the beauty of seeing achievement in our children and in the vision of equity through education. It should be important to you that our children live diversity in their everyday lives in order to appreciate diversity in the world. And you should understand, going into it, that all children are different and achieve differently, and that education is capable of being, and must be, flexible. You have to believe that what you do for all the city’s children will shape a better city, state, country and world than the one we are leaving them to work with. In short, you need a true passion about education, equity, our children and their future.
It also helps to be able to check your ego at the door and have a thick skin to keep your focus on the kids. You need to accept and understand that you don’t know everything. You need to be willing to learn how and why things work the way they do in public service (as opposed to in the private sector because they truly aren’t comparable) and specifically in public education – and there is a lot to learn; much more than I had ever anticipated. You need to be collaborative and tuck your ego away in order to work as a cohesive unit with the whole Board and the administration, for the good of the children we serve as our primary charge.
The right people will know that this is not their stage or spotlight, nor their springboard for whatever else it is they want to do. This is not their place to be, or prove, they are “right” about whatever it is they want to be right about. In my opinion, they should know this is not a place for partisan politics or representing “sides” as it were here in Hoboken. Because being on the Board is an end in itself – it’s a position that satisfies a calling to serve the least represented in our community. It’s not about you, or me, or even about your or my own children (if you have them), it’s about the community and progress and selflessness.
We all know by now that being elected to the Board of Education and serving thereon, is voluntary, with no remuneration, perks or real recognition. Frankly, very few people know who any of the Board members are at any given time, and it has often been called a “thankless” job as a result.
But I can assure you that it is not a thankless job. While Board members may not receive a ton of recognition or thanks from the public at large (and I, for one, am just fine with that), we receive all the satisfaction and “thanks” we need when we see the children of the District smile as they come out of school, or when we see them achieve in whatever it is they strive to accomplish. For my own part, the sense of purpose that I experience and how full my soul feels when I attend our high school graduation is something I wish everyone could experience. There is, truly, no better day of the year. So, if the thought of watching our incredibly diverse young adults exude confidence and a sense of achievement, cheer in equal amounts for each of their fellow graduates, and honor their parents and teachers as they cross the dias and take their first steps into the world, brings a smile to your face or warms your heart, I believe you should consider a run for the Board of Education. Best of luck to all those candidates whose aim is true.
(Although I am a current member of the Hoboken Board of Education, the foregoing letter and statements therein are made in my capacity as a private citizen and not in my capacity as a board member. These statements are also not representative of the board or any of the board’s individual members, and represent my own personal opinions only)