Saturday, April 21, 2007

Milestone 351

When I signed in this morning to the blog I learned that I have 350 posts to my name.



That's fairly amazing.

But what I was going to say when I first go the urge to sign in is that I'm going to have to seriously consider what in the hell I'm going to do at the end of this summer. Yes, I know it's April. But I have to start thinking about summer and fall now.

My political term ends in November. Which means that I'll need to run for re-election during Fall if I'm going to stay on the Board. And if I Run in the Fall, I have to declare in the Summer, which means I have to pull together my campaign committee and volunteers in the Spring.

Which is now.

I bitch a lot about serving. It IS a hard job. But I also know myself well enough to know that I'm obsessed by the school board and public education. I've been tapped to run for City Council, but I can't see myself doing city politics, or larger politics in general. (Although I'll admit to harboring a secret desire to work in some politician's local office. A mini-West Wing? That would be something.) I don't see myself staying away from the position if I were to decide to step down. I'd turn into one of those public cranks who haunts every meeting, just bitching and making trouble.

But fuck, you guys. Running a campaign is an INSANE task. Campaigning, except for public speaking, does not rely on ANY skill required by a School Board Trustee. Asking people for money. Ugh. Cold Calling asking for support. Ugh. Tracking yard sign placements. Ugh. Filing campaign finance paperwork. Ugh. Walking precincts every weekend without fail to knock on doors. Ugh. Re-organizing, highlighting and collating precinct lists after precinct walking is done. Ugh. Asking your friends to show up on Saturdays during September to walk to precincts you missed. Ugh. Stressing that they'll say something stupid to an angry homeowner and misrepresent your opinions. Ugh. Stressing that you should have done that precinct already. Ugh. Stressing that you're doing all this work and still you won't be successful. Ugh. Wearing makeup every day and driving slowly and carefully so as to always make a good impression. Ugh. Staffing phone banks and asking your friends to cold call other people to gauge support. Ugh. Sending out thank you notes to the people who showed up to cold call for you. Ugh.

From June through October this goes on.

Now. It only happens every fourth year, and the first time I did it I won the election. Came in first over candidates who had lived in town for twenty or more years. So I'm pretty good at it. But it doesn't feel like it when I'm in it.

And I worry about this blog. I think I'd have to take it off-line for a while. (I know that everything I've ever posted is cached somewhere. I've said it before: If someone who were running against me were to find these and try to embarrass me with them, it wouldn't work. I've only ever been honest. But I worry about the casual voter stumbling into this morass of opinions and discussions of sex and books and loss and frustration and not knowing me well enough to incorporate it fully into my political objectives. Which are only to better the schools and to get the infighting to stop.) But still -- I'd feel less worried if I were to pull it off line for the duration. But then I'd miss having a place to vent and to get some support back in comments.

I dunno about this campaigning thing.

Dear Butcher says that I'm just worrying too much. That I already have broad based support, and that I already have tons of yard signs left over from the last election, so I don't need to raise as much money as I think. That I just need to announce the candidacy, put out yard signs, sign up volunteers to walk precincts for me, send out an announcement mailer, attend the four candidates forums and sit back.

I dunno.

I've watched a few other candidates do that: "I'm on the ballot but I'm not going to spend a lot of money running." They never do well. Two of them came in dead last. (Except in the last election where there were three seats open. Two candidates campaigned hard and the third came in by only attending the forums and putting up about six large yard signs. But I think their campaigning helped her.)

Then there's the shift from poll voting to absentee voting. We've seen a significant shift there. Which means that you have to get the bulk of you campaigning in before October 10, when the absentee ballots are mailed. School starts in late August, and people don't want to hear about campaigns before then. So to hit the absentee voters (about 25-36% of our most-likely voters) you have to make contact with them between last week of August and first week of October. For campaigning purposes, contact means either one phone call, or one personal visit, or four mail contacts. (People throw mail out, but absentee voters have been shown to collect mailers to refer to while voting.) That four mailers in one month?? No way I'm doing that. I'd HATE a candidate who did that to me.

So we come back to the importance of precinct walking and phone banks. Which will require volunteers. Whom I'll have to recruit now, before school lets out. Because by the time they get back into town in late summer, I'll have already needed their services.

Once I get this far into my train of thought I come up against, "Good lord, woman. Are you trying to kill yourself? You have three kids to take care of, one of whom needs a lot of attention and doctor visits. You have no reliable babysitters to depend upon for any precinct walking you want to get down after school. Your husband runs his own retail business, which means he'll have commitments during the weekend. Just who are you expecting to be taking care of the family, Hmmmm? On top of which, you'll still be ON the school board, with all of those commitments during the Fall. This is insane. Step down. Become a cog in the wheel behind the scenes."

So I can't decide whether I'm actually GOING to run. But for example, I know that the GATE program isn't functioning in this district. Bright kids are getting NO extra accommodations, just trips to the ice cream parlor. And Neo's bright, so I need to be in a position of power to see that this program DOES get changed for her benefit and mental health. For all the kids who are bright. And then there's the Special Ed program, which is going to need more administrative personnel. But no one WANTS to hire administrators--it's not sexy. But if we want functioning programs, we cannot expect change to happen with one full-time Director and one part-time secretary. That is NOT enough staff. And this is the case for two other departments as well.

And then there's the drug use at the secondary level which is out of hand, allowed to be swept under the rug by parents who refuse to acknowledge that even their own children are using. (Can I just point out here that the Mormon parents are THE WORST in this regard? When all of your kid's friends are using, so is your very own angel. OK? Got it? If your kid is in the upper parking lot with all the other potheads, guess what: You've got a pothead for a child. It's not the end of the world, but please don't pretend that your child, your very own little darling is just up there watching the blunt pass on by.) We need real programs, not this Every Fifteen Minutes crap.

(Although, as an update to that post from May of last year. I have great news. The policy committee -- which I chair -- passed a policy requiring all drug prevention education programs to be scientifically based. Hee. AND the Superintendent has agreed to get rid of Every 15 Minutes. Hee. I did do some good for the schools this term, after all. Of course, the downside here is that the organizers of the program have not yet received word that their program will not receive approval when they request it. So the backlash has not yet begun. This reminds me, I have to ask the Sup on Monday to put out a letter to them explaining the impact of the new policy.)

Even just typing that out, I realize that I HAVE done good things for the schools. This week we approved an integrated Arts, Music, and Drama program for K-12, complete with a dedicated Music teacher and professional development for existing teachers. I participated in that. I helped negotiate the re-use of our closed elementary school for use as a community center, and that deal brings in revenue to the District. And I have pushed forward all sorts of policy revisions and renewals. I keep forgetting what good things I can do for the District in my weariness which comes on from the enterprise itself.

SO I guess it comes to:

Don't run: Sit back and watch the system dissolve back into personal rants and favoritisms and wild-on political maneuverings. Learn to live with the funding decisions others who sit up on that dais decide to make. But know that I did my part and that my voice is a respected one should I step forward to comment on the proceedings.

Run: Lose my mind in the Fall and know that for the next four years I'm going to maintain this same level of stress in my professional life. But know that after the campaign is done, I can be part of the decision and policy-setting process.

What to do. What to do.

Maybe I've got another 350 posts to work it out. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Marianne McA said...

I think you're going to decide to run - you don't sound quite disillusioned enough to stop yourself. (Though thinking as a foreigner, it just sounds so odd that anyone would have to go through all that to get a post that they aren't even paid for. You should be paid - and then showered with thanks.)

And, as easy as this is to say, and impossible as might be to do, I think there is huge value in having parents whose children aren't coping well in the system having the clout to initiate change. My older sister has been involved in a pressure group to rethink provision for autism in her part of London. The impression I have is that it takes articulate and determined parents to raise the issues if anything is to change.
But, as I said, easy to say. I'm not sure I could or would do it myself.

I'd miss the blog though. Thirteen things you'd never imagine anyone would do to a horse.