Serving on school board is a labor of love

All school board directors in Colorado serve without pay, and this volunteer position is considered by some to be one of the most valuable and challenging in the community.

In Eagle County, this job comes with awesome responsibility: overseeing an organization with almost 1,000 employees, an operating budget exceeding $100 million (not including the construction bond spending of $144 million) and the duty to ensure that all of our children receive an education that will prepare them to be high-functioning and contributing members of society. Board work is by consensus and through collaboration — an individual director does not have individual power.

School board directors must be residents of the director district they represent and be a registered voter for at least 12 months prior to the election. They cannot have been convicted of a sexual offense against a child and may not campaign as members of a particular political party. School board elections are nonpartisan, a welcome relief these days. What is actually required of board directors is so much more.

Board directors believe in public education; they are systems thinkers with excellent interpersonal skills; they want to lead, not manage; they have a strong code of ethics. Ideal school board directors listen with open hearts and minds to the issues and information presented and then make decisions that are equity based and instructionally and fiscally sound. Students are at the center of all the work we do.

On Nov. 3, voters of Eagle County will be able to cast votes for board directors in districts B, E, F and G. I will be submitting my petition for re-election in District B. Shelly Jarnot intends to seek reelection in District G. We are grateful for the valuable insight and service Pat Hirn (District F) and Kevin Kottenstette (District E) have provided over the past four and two years, respectively, but both of these gentlemen will not be seeking reelection.

Serving on a school board requires dedication and time (about 35 to 45 hours a month). There is outside reading and preparation for meetings, grocery store and chairlift conversations with community members and board meetings, plus committee meetings and school visits. Valuable and enriching opportunities for professional learning and growth take time away from family and other commitments.

Board directors have a lot of responsibility and little power. We are a policy governance board that does not manage day-to-day operations, but monitors and reviews data trajectories, budget reports and strategic plan documents to insure the school district is managing taxpayer resources responsibly and meeting the needs of all students. Eagle County Schools Board of Education works as a team, challenging one another to improve how we are serving kids.

I have heard it said that serving on a school board is a thankless task, but I have been thanked many times in the street, at the grocery store and at community gatherings. The personal satisfaction I gain from knowing that I am participating in valuable work and am part of a larger mission is gratifying. Plus, I will admit that I am a bit of an education geek. Discussions about curriculum development and project-based learning, demonstrations of formative assessment at work in the classroom, learning about best practices for teaching across cultures: These are a few of my favorite things.

I consider it a privilege to work alongside the education professionals and superb support staff at Eagle County Schools. I hope that there are a few folks out there willing to take on this labor of love.

Kate Cocchiarella is the president of the Board of Education of Eagle County Schools.