You can advocate for education, learn about yourself, shape the community’s future and make the tough decisions that can improve children’s lives — and more.
All by running for, and winning, a seat on your local board of education.
“You’re invested in the future of your community,” said Mary Loveland, who is stepping down this year after 20 years as a member of the Lawrence school board.
Such benefits await the four members who will be elected April 5, to assume four-year terms beginning in July. Six other districts in Douglas County also have seats open.
On Friday, the race for seats on the Lawrence board welcomed its first two candidates: incumbent Marlene Merrill and Shannon Kimball, a member of the district’s Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force.
The filing deadline for board races is noon Jan. 25. The requirements:
• Be a resident of the district.
• Be a registered voter at the time of filing.
• Be at least 18 years old on election day.
• Pay a $5 filing fee.
After that, the work is up to you.
“A large part of it is just showing up — stepping up, showing up and putting your name on the ballot to participate,” said Jamie Shew, Douglas County clerk. “That’s the place to start.”
From there, current and former board members say, candidates will have their eyes on a prize that carry a number of benefits. Among them:
• Community service. “It can be a pain, but also extremely rewarding,” said Scott Morgan, a current board member who has won two elections, lost another and doesn’t plan on running again. “I can think of nothing more important that you can do for your community.” Anyone who truly believes should consider leading by example, he said, “and it’s not a spectator sport. You’ve got to engage at some level.”
• Leadership experience. “It’s an interpersonal growth experience like no other,” said Maley Wilkins, who served on the Lawrence board from 1995 to 1999, including one year as president. “It gives you confidence, and you know you can do something.” The varied skills she picked up on the board — communications, negotiations and others — continue to serve her today, as she works as community bank president for Peoples Bank in Lawrence.
• Future investment. Loveland lost her first race in 1983, then won four in a row beginning in 1987 before losing again in 2003 and winning again in 2007. She knows it’s been worth it and will pay off well into the future.
“The person who does heart surgery on me when I have a heart attack in 20 years, or the machinist who takes care of the vehicle that carries my family, or the people who will be doing my taxes in 20 years — those people are in school right now,” Loveland said. “I want them to be very well-educated.”
Vanessa Sanburn, now in her second year as a board member, acknowledges all of the aforementioned benefits, and couldn’t agree more. But during the past week’s snow days, it was Sanburn’s 8-year-old daughter, Nadia — a second-grader at Woodlawn School — who put it all in perspective.
“She got to know she had a snow day about 2 minutes ahead of time,” Sanburn said, with a laugh.
Such perks of leadership await Sanburn’s future colleagues, and those who win election to other boards in the area.