Editorial: What we want to see in a school board candidate

Our school board is the avenue through which the community has a say in determining the future direction of the district. That’s why the April 4 school board election is so important: we have the opportunity to choose candidates that stand for issues that matter to students and our community.

The first step to creating a better school board is electing candidates that prioritize student voices. This past year, the administration decided to remove Latin and change the music program with limited student input, which led to some controversy. The board was responsible for approving these changes. 

When the board was approving the decision to remove Latin, students gave speeches opposing the decision at the board meeting. While the board acknowledged the student feedback in a statement, we need to see more transparency in how this feedback factors into the final decision to ensure that our voices are not ignored. An ideal school board should incorporate the community, staff and students’ perspectives when approving major decisions.

One way to get there is by making the board more accessible to the community. Right now, there are only two official ways to contact the school board: first, through email, and second, at board meetings. Neither of these ways give students the opportunity to have an in-person conversation with a board member about their concerns. Emails are impersonal and students have to give formal speeches at board meetings, with no chance to follow up after speaking. 

A solution could be the implementation of monthly forums where parents and students can connect with board members through Q&A sessions. This is a great way for board members to show the community what they’ve been doing and learn about students’ concerns and priorities. School board members can even visit Naperville Central and other District 203 schools to place themselves in our shoes. They could sit in classes and speak to students in an authentic environment. 

With this in mind, we must also elect candidates who’ve had past experiences working with students. A former teacher or counselor will be able to reflect student voices in their decision making more than someone who’s never worked in education. 

None of this is to say that the school board hasn’t made a positive impact. The current board has done a great job of bringing new academic opportunities to Naperville Central, but there is still more work to be done. Board members must prioritize expanding the Social Emotional Learning and Multi-Tiered Support Systems programs to provide more avenues for student success. 

At a time where censorship is rampant in schools across the country, we have to go the other way. Restricting and censoring school curriculum like what is happening in Florida with CRT and LGBTQ material will only hurt students by discouraging free speech. School board members must be the champions of free speech and fight to keep an open curriculum for students. 

We must elect a school board with a defined long-term strategy for improvement. There is something very wrong when a board member’s “agenda” is simply the continuation of the status quo. We can’t settle for stagnation and must look for ways to improve. 

School board members need to be accountable to their stakeholders. Even if most students cannot vote in school board elections, members are still representing their families. Let’s make sure to support candidates who support us. Because let’s face it, if board members prioritize the appeasement of the administration over our voices, they don’t deserve to represent us.