We have a story to tell, Reginald Felton, assistant executive director for Congressional Relations for NSBA, told urban school board members gathered this week to attend NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. The meeting ends Saturday.
Felton, a keynote speaker on Friday, urged board members to tell their story of public school success. “We are in crisis,” he said. “We are under more attack than in the past. Every bad example that can be publicized is publicized. Communities would rather believe our urban schools provide no opportunities for advancement, but we know that’s not true. We have a story to tell. We can’t back off telling that story if we want to get out of crisis.”
He discussed the importance of school board members getting involved in the political process – including advocating for public education to their state and federal representatives. This is crucial now when federal government “believes that it can tell us at every level what needs to be done to succeed. We say, you can establish the ultimate goal, but you’ve got to let us work for our kids,” he said. “We need to have the flexibility but we need to tell our story. Some in Washington believe we don’t have a story to tell. Except for the one on the 6 o’clock news.”
Felton told the audience: Having a strong relationship with members of Congress promotes value of public education and enhances member accountability.
CUBE Steering Committee Chair Minnie Forte-Brown also spoke at the conference on Friday. She talked about the temptation as a board member to “get tired” – feel exhaustion in the face of what seems like insurmountable obstacles, especially the societal difficulties that many students face.
It’s this temptation to give up on the system, she said, that drives parents and communities to try charter schools or support vouchers.
However, she said, board members must fight this temptation. “On this day, these decisions that damage our schools will not tempt me to be tired. We will be fired up and take this back, energized and ready to fight,” she said.
Forte-Brown, a member of North Carolina’s Durham School Board, closed by encouraging her fellow board members. “Nobody said it was going to easy. School board leadership is not for sissies,” she said. “You have been chosen. I want you to saddle up and let’s go.”