In 2021, hundreds of new school board members were elected across the state and began their four year term. This December marks the one year anniversary for those new board members. I reached out to a number of newly elected board members and asked them to share some of their experiences since taking office.
Today, we’re spotlighting Tim Strickler. Strickler is a school board director serving the Central York School District in York County.
1. What have you enjoyed the most about being a school board director?
The sense of purpose and peace that comes from tackling significant challenges in life purely in the spirit of service to others.
2. What surprised you the most when you joined the board?
A lack of leadership quality, administrative experience and fundamental critical thinking skills among some in school district administration/management and board director positions.
3. What do you like the least about being a school board member?
The lack of leadership quality, administrative experience and fundamental critical thinking skills mentioned above. However, over time the bar has been raised and this continues to improve. One of our 2021 actions was to hire a new Superintendent, and he is doing a great job.
4. How much time do you spend monthly on board duties?
This has varies greatly depending on initiatives and projects. I estimate roughly a low of 10 hours per month during lightest activity to a high of 40 hours per month during key initiatives.
5. Do you have school-age children?
Yes, two sons.
6. If yes, do they attend the district where you serve?
Yes, both sons. One graduated from Central York High School in 2022 and the other is currently a junior at Central York High School.
7. Knowing what you know now, would you have still run for office last year?
The 2021 election experience was among the steepest challenges I’ve had in my professional career, in time, effort, and especially mental/emotional strain. My wife accompanied me in door knocking, which was a helpful moral support. We saw examples of the worst and best in citizens. The worst in lies and slander (from the media and individuals) to the best in heartfelt gratitude from others in their knowing that someone had to take a stand for what is true and right, and I was one of those people.
Board service itself has also been challenging, particularly with my heavy involvement in a Superintendent search committee, teachers’ union contract negotiation committee, finance committee leadership role in charting a turn-around from a precarious financial state, involvement in vetting a new math program, and other key curriculum transparency creation, etc.
The greater the challenge and importance of what’s at stake, the greater the sense of purpose and meaning in our efforts. So, yes — I would still have run.
8. Do you think you will run again when your term is over?
No. Since I served early — having been nominated to serve an open Board position in February 2021 — when I complete this current term, I will have served five years and both my sons will have graduated. It will then be time to hand the baton to another.
9. Were you welcomed to the board by other board members?
On balance, yes. I will say that I was unprepared for some of the unprofessional infighting and overall lack of experience and critical thinking abilities of some. Thankfully, the majority of that has passed.
10. How much communication do you have with your constituents?
A fair amount, but I would like it to be more. I serve as a corporate executive in my day job, which can be quite demanding in time and energy, so my time is limited. I am attentive to citizen comments received via email and from those attending Board meetings, and general comments/suggestions received informally. I would like to attend more school functions to interact more with teachers, staff and citizens if/as my corporate day job permits.
11. Anything else you would like to share?
I never previously desired to serve on a school board and have always had a heavy corporate work schedule. I stepped up to serve in 2021 despite this, solely as a matter of service to my country. I truly believe many of our public schools have lost sight of their purpose, and this is having a crippling impact on all our students and, by extension, our country. Service to humanity is always the best work of life.
My philosophy, in short, is this: School districts exist for local parents and taxpayers to serve their children. Parents and taxpayers hire school administrators, teachers and staff but ultimately have the authoritative say via their elected local representatives, the school board. Yes, there are certain federal and state legal parameters, but mostly governance is pursuant to local District leadership — which is vital to uphold and defend. Schools exist to teach academics, and the crucial distinction between roles of teachers versus parents must not be blurred.
Schools are charged with selecting age- and grade-appropriate academic learning materials, a responsibility that should never be conflated with social agendas and contrived “book banning.” There is no place in our schools for political and social agendas; rather, the focus must be on academics and objective reasoning. We should be teaching students how to think, not what to think. We should be supporting ALL children with academic instruction and support, and challenging them ALL to develop critical thinking skills and ability for civil debate and persuasive argument. We would do best to teach our children how to embrace true diversity, which spans much more than outward appearance and includes differing philosophies, politics, religion and critical thinking that might be at odds with fashionable social agendas.
For the sake of our country, our students must learn the skill of thoughtful disagreement, kind and civil debate where the goal is simply the highest form of truth.
Beth Ann Rosica holds a Ph.D. in Education and has dedicated her career advocating on behalf of underserved children and families. She owns a consulting business and lives with her family in West Chester, Pa.