It was almost exactly two years ago that I began to jokingly “threaten” that I would run for the La Cañada Unified School District governing board if there wasn't a sufficient number of candidates to trigger an election. Those jokes became more serious when, approaching the deadline, I submitted a letter to this paper outlining what I saw as conversations worthy of our participation and making the case for a robust campaign.
I'm back. Three seats are open in the upcoming election to a five-person governing board that bears ultimate responsibility for this community's most treasured resource. Once again I am hoping people in our community will consider carefully whether they may be of service by sparking critical conversations.
In discussions on school board candidates, the word “agenda” is often introduced with displeasure; heads nod approvingly as we suggest that the right person is one without an “agenda.” There seems to be a belief that one cannot both judiciously evaluate the disparate issues that come before the board and have expectations about a set of priorities. If I'm representing the claim fairly, I am skeptical of it. But rather than wade too deeply into that conversation, I want to describe what I see as the ideal disposition for a candidate. I call it “running on purpose.”
In a field paralyzed by the status quo, successful districts like LCUSD can be prone to inertia — sometimes for good reason. District leadership, starting with the school board, must explore new frontiers of success, occasionally rock an otherwise tremendously steady boat, and recognize when it's time to explore, when it's time to rock, and when it's not. This requires vision.
As members of our communities consider running for the board, I hope they consider — and that we demand to understand — what they hope LCUSD looks like in five, 10, 15 years from now. It's a wonderful thing to feel such pride in our schools. That pride should inspire leaders to imagine something even better, not confine us to what we already are.
So I hope candidates will run on purpose; not as a consequence of previous involvement or social ties, but out of a desire to develop, describe and lead toward a vision for what our schools can be and what our students deserve.
The challenges and potential are too significant for passivity. The next board will face the implementation of Common Core Standards and the Local Control Funding Formula — the most dramatic changes in decades to what and how we teach and how we fund our schools, both rolling out simultaneously. The coming years will include the introduction of new employee evaluation tools that will require scrutiny, revision and dedication to effective execution. And perhaps nothing better represents the challenge/potential relationship than the use of technology in schools.
LCUSD can claim “winner” in a broken system or it can be an active participant in the creation of a better system altogether. Our success is capped at the former if school board members show up as caretakers, believing the only room left above our heads is that coveted No. 1 API spot.
You may remember that my election in 2011 was so close that we did not have a winner until 10 days after Election Day — and that every count released until the final results put me behind. It was a comforting experience, believe it or not. Even though they were 10 days during which I assumed I had lost the election, it didn't feel anything like failure. Playing a role in the generation and development of critical conversations that push our district to the next level is exhilarating. Having the opportunity to continue pushing from the other side of the dais has been icing on the cake.
The filing period began this week and will close on Aug. 9. I look forward to the conversation and to welcoming new colleagues to the work.
ANDREW BLUMENFELD is a member of the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board.