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 Catherine Fox. Fox is a school board director serving the Fairview School District in Erie County.
1. What have you enjoyed the most about being a school board director?
I think the most enjoyable part of the “job” is getting to know how it all works and meeting the people in the community who actually appreciate what the board is doing.
2. What surprised you the most when you joined the board?
The most surprising thing when joining the board was the absolute lack of communication from administration to the board, or the fact that most communication happens after a decision is made and the board rubber-stamps it.
I think the new board members who were elected just before the coronavirus outbreak were very new when that happened and weren’t necessarily taught proper procedures. Then, they had to deal with the ever-changing mandates from the state, and the job of a school board member was lost and somehow changed into a navigation of Covid protocols.
We were met with a lot of animosity from both the administration and the current board members when we were elected, but I do feel that is changing a little bit now that they are able to see what their true duties are.
3. What do you like the least about being a school board member?
The fact that it’s been done one way for a long time. It’s going to take a lot to change the way things are and return rights to parents and do what is best for the students. Many things are pushed down from the state and most times board members’ hands are tied.
4. How much time do you spend monthly on board duties?
I would say about 3–4 hours a week, unless there is a hot topic on the agenda. Then it might be a little bit more due to fielding community calls.
5. Do you have school-age children?
Yes, now a senior and a freshman!
6. If yes, do they attend the district where you serve?
7. Knowing what you know now, would you have still run for office last year?
Yes. I believe we can make a change and get back to the basics of top of the line education! I think it will take time and a lot of willpower from parents and board members alike. I also think parents need to get more involved in state politics, as that is the driving force behind what is happening in our schools right now.
8. Do you think you will run again when your term is over?
My husband and I have talked about this. My kids will be out of school by then, so the incentive might have worn off a bit, but I still believe our community and parents and students and teachers deserve better than what is happening right now. So it is likely!
9. Were you welcomed to the board by other board members?
No. Not at all. I am working on a welcoming package for the next elected members so that they do not feel like I felt, and I have voiced my concerns regarding this. It wasn’t warmly received but it was acknowledged, and I guess that is half the battle.
10. How much communication do you have with your constituents?
Quite a bit, actually! If anyone contacts me by email or phone, I always reach out and try to have a discussion. I think it is really important to have all stakeholders involved in our schools, including community members that do not have students in the district but are part of the district.
11. Anything else you would like to share?
Our children are worth fighting for. After seeing how things work and how the system is geared to educate our kids in a certain way, I believe we have to try to keep making changes.
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.