If you had to pick three words that best describe you — that perhaps may be the only three words someone will read about you, what would they be?
That's what we ask of our school board candidates: choose three words. These are the words that appear next to your name on the ballot.
For some, there are natural or easily definable career or personality adjectives: teacher, firefighter, realtor, etc. These effortlessly resonate with people.
Or counselor. For example, I recall current board member Sandee Everett using "counselor" as one of her descriptors listed on the ballot. It wan't until afterward that many learned that while Mrs. Everett did complete her training hours to earn her license, she wasn't able to confirm she ever actually worked as a counselor (to my knowledge). When I emailed Mrs. Everett months and months ago, asking for her to clarify her experience as a counselor, she never responded. I think I recall hearing that she suggested that she once counseled a friend's child, but can't remember if this was stated at a board meeting, or as hearsay. When I did some digging, I came across an interview the Panther Prowler conducted with Mrs. Everett during her campaign:
"I also have a current and active license in school counseling, and what that means is that when I was doing my training to be a school counselor–so since graduating and getting my degree I chose to be a full time mom because I had all my kids at home and like many professionals, I decided to stay home with my kids until they get to be a certain age when I feel like they’re ready for me to move forward."
Now, don't get me wrong. A lot of hours and training go into obtaining a counseling license, and that's not to be discounted. But, obtaining your license and actually working as a counselor are two very different things —I'm sure current CVUSD school board candidate, Bill Gorback, who worked as a counselor for more than 15 years could attest to that — and I think it's very unfortunate that a current board member misrepresented her experience on the ballot.
But then again, what do I know?
Anyway, it's something I bring up because I think it's important that we help our candidates raise awareness about their platforms, so that come November 6, people who show up to the polls aren't just voting on the three words on the ballot — especially given the example above. Not everyone has access to $25K in donations and cute signs with apples on them, or a lack of regard for accurately describing their qualifications on the ballot.
And because of that, we need to make sure that if we have a candidate we support... people know about them — their history, their views on school board issues, their personality, etc. I get the idea behind these three words — you need to have something listed on the ballot — but, when it's clear certain individuals seek to take advantage of this system, we must be vigilant in making sure that the community is receiving accurate information about all of the candidates running, without room or tolerance for misrepresentation.
And, it's not enough to make Facebook posts either. It's a start. We live in a social media world, so that's not to be undermined. But, we have to do more this election. We have to canvass our neighborhoods. We need to register voters. We need to speak to our friends and correct inaccurate information. We need our neighbors to be aware of what has been happening in the school district this past year (and years). We need to help candidates raise funds. We need to donate. We need to vote and encourage those in this district to vote.
Three words should not control the fate of our students.
Encourage your friends and family to be informed voters this season. That may mean that their votes still don't align with yours, but don't let those around you vote blindly. At the very least, let's make sure voters have access to accurate information and are aware of candidate platforms, how to engage with current candidates to ask questions, and know what to search for online when looking into incumbent history and experience on the board.
Later this week, I'll be touching upon my thoughts on some issues brought up in the latest Q&A I attended, as well as providing a recap of some statements four announced candidates shared.
Don't forget to save the date for my CVUSD CANDIDATE Q&A, which you can learn all about on my website.
SEND ME QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES BY MARCH 10.
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Mary Anne Van Zuyle
Jenny Hughes Fitzgerald