SIKESTON - They serve as constitutional officers and community leaders, making decisions that affect students, parents, school employees and taxpayers.
It's a commitment board of education members have made.
Sikeston Public Schools will join school districts throughout Missouri in honoring these individuals during School Board Recognition Week, Jan. 21-27 and to call attention to the contributions of members of boards of education.
"By state statute, they're the power that makes everything happen, they're the wisdom of our state government," said Sikeston Public Schools Superintendent Steve Borgsmiller.
"They create the policy that in turn allows those of us who are hired hands to carry out what their wishes might be for the education of our children."
Elected to three-year terms, Scott County R-6's seven board members - Kenny Anderson, Randy Bohannon, Bob Depro, Greg Colwick, Dan Jennings, Bill Priday and Steve Millington - are responsible for setting educational policies, employing school personnel, providing buildings and equipment and disbursing school funds.
"I think people have a general idea that yes, they run the school system, but do they realize the time that's required, the reading they have to do based upon information that is provided to them by the staff and input that is provided to them by the people in the community on whatever the topic may be? All of that information is considered in any decision the board may or may not make," noted Borgsmiller.
New Madrid County R-1 Superintendent Dr. Mike Barnes also has high praises for those who serve on his board, Randy Porter, Harvey Graham, Jean Higgerson, Johnny Davis, Don Brittian, Scott Riley and Ralph Barnwell Jr.
"The students, patrons and staff of the R-1 District benefit greatly from our board's wisdom and knowledge," Barnes said.
"Student interests are being met through the establishment and policies that ensure that they receive the highest quality education in a safe and orderly environment. The district's patrons are being served by the board's ability to provide a world class education at no cost to local taxpayers that ranks 524th out of 525 districts in the state. And I know that I speak for the district's staff members when I say that we appreciate the consistent guidance and support they provide for us."
Davis described serving on New Madrid County R-1's school board for 18 years as a continuous learning experience. "The main thing is you've got to listen to what people say, listening is the best thing," he advised. "And get both sides of any controversy. I've learned a lot about myself at times, such as you've got to be a little more tolerant."
"It has been a very rewarding experience," agreed Greg Colwick, president of Sikeston's Board of Education. "I sometimes second guess myself on decisions, but I try to look at it as to what is in the best interest of the child. I've learned that you have to have all parties pulling on the same rope to have a great school. It doesn't help to have great facilities without high quality teachers. You can't expect high academic standards without a good core curriculum. It takes a good administration to have a strong partnership with the parents. All of these components have to work to make that child feel that he is part of the school community."
Borgsmiller said one of the challenges board members face is trying to keep focused on the responsibilities they have as board members, while at the same time assuming the responsibilities that come with daily life, family, church obligations, etc.
"They are people too," he noted. "They have lives and jobs besides serving on the board of education."
It is simple to judge others from a distance, but Borgsmiller and Barnes agreed with the old saying that suggests one should not be critical until he's walked in the other person's shoes.
"I think everyone has a general idea of what a board member does, whether it's the board of education, the city council or board in someone's church, but until such time that they're sitting in that seat and they are obliged to make decisions I think only then does the gravity of the responsibility come home to roost," Borgsmiller said.
Barnes added he occasionally hears comments that being a member of school board is a thankless job.
"Believe me, in many instances it is exactly that, a thankless job," Barnes said. "When things are going well, the efforts of the board too often go unrecognized but when the going gets rough, as it will from time to time, the members of the board are the first ones to get the calls from those who want to voice their dissatisfaction. I understand that hearing complaints is part of the job. I just wish more people would take the time to give them a pat on the back every now and then. They do a tremendous job."