The best way to improve Arizona’s schools is to make sure every public school has a well-functioning school board. That’s according to the nonprofit Arizona School Boards Association, which provides training, leadership and essential services to public school governing boards statewide.
ASBA is urging parents and community members to consider running to become a local school board member. Those interested should start planning now and collecting signatures by early spring. Signatures must be submitted to county superintendent offices by August for the November 2020 election.
Nikkie Whaley, a member of the Washington Elementary School District Governing Board, says she has always been passionate about education and drawn to public service, but she admits she was intimidated about running for local office: “I didn’t think that was something I could do. I thought politics wasn’t really for me. I just wanted to help kids,” says Whaley, who is 38 and has two children in Arizona’s largest K-8 district.
To run for the office, a candidate must: 1. Get an information packet from the county superintendent of schools. 2. Collect signatures on a nominating petition. 3. File a political committee statement of organization with the county elections department or superintendent of schools upon reaching a combined total of $1,100 in contributions and expenses. 4. File signatures with the county superintendent of schools within the filing deadline. 5. Run a campaign.
Whaley eased into the process with an appointed seat, then an uncontested election, and says the process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. She’s says inadequate funding remains the biggest challenge for Arizona’s public schools, and she’s passionate about students’ social-emotional health and wellbeing.
“You shouldn’t [run for school board] because you want to help just your kid … or further your political career,” says Whaley, who spends about 8 hours a month at meetings, reading materials and at events. “You should really have a desire to improve the school system for all students.”
Visit azsba.org/becoming-a-board-member for details about the process and instructive videos for would-be school board candidates.