Yesterday, FRC Action hosted a very successful School Board Boot Camp. In response to the repeated requests of partners across the country, the four-hour training session provided information on what you need to know about running for school board or supporting people who answer the call to public service. At the end of the day, we learned that 97 percent of participants said they would definitely or probably recommend this event to others, and 66 percent said they would definitely be interested in one specifically for their state. Here's what happened:
We began the day as most public school board meetings should (and some still do): with a prayer and the pledge. After opening remarks, FRCAction's Jerry Boykin, Brent Keilen, and Tony Perkins got down to business.
Our first panel featured one current school board member and two former school board members who explained what it is like to be on a school board. These panelists embody the qualities and skill sets that are desperately needed on school boards in America today. Melissa Merrell has served her community in Union County, N.C., since 2014. She explained challenges they faced during the pandemic and their decision to open schools for in-person learning because that is what their parents wanted. This was not as popular a move with some of the teachers and their union or the media, but the school board made it happen anyway. Then we heard from David Tryon, who had served on a school board in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. He talked about working on budget issues and not issuing new bonds during his tenure because of cost savings and efficiencies he and the board worked hard to identify. David asked tough questions of his superintendent and staff until he got the answers he and the board needed to make things happen. Elizabeth Schultz described her experience on Fairfax County, Va.'s school board. She served two terms and spoke about the need for school board members not to be content with superficial information from the superintendent, assistant superintendents, and financial officers. She also encouraged people who are considering running to think in terms of skills rather than credentials. Serving on a school board does not require an education degree or a special credential. School board service requires a desire to serve God, families, parents, children, and common sense. All the panelists spoke about recruiting others to run for school board so they would have the votes to get things done.
The second panel covered issues that school board members are likely to face once on the school board. Critical Race Theory (CRT) was covered by Jonathan Butcher from Heritage Foundation. He described the history of the theory itself, its Marxist roots in Germany in the early 20th century, its spread to America through universities, and its eventual arrival in America's K-12 school classrooms. Butcher explained the need to understand the different forms CRT can take and the need for school board members to remove it from America's public schools. Next, Mary Hasson from Ethics and Public Policy Center emphasized the need for school board candidates and members who value the dignity of the human person. She encouraged the Boot Camp attendees to seek agreement, when possible, without compromising your values. And she reminded us that schools are run at the local level where policies do not necessarily have to look like the political agenda pushed out of the Department of Education. To round out this panel, Max Eden from American Enterprise Institute explained how school discipline policies are being politicized by federal activists determined to assess the safety of students based on race rather than on behavior. We all want school discipline policies that maintain order in the classroom. He offered to help school board members who find their school districts harassed by civil rights investigations based on this paradigm.
After a fantastic presentation by the Leadership Institute on how to run for office, the final panel focused on parent groups, PACs, and recall campaigns. Ryan Girdusky of the 1776 Project PAC talked about his efforts to support candidates who are committed to eliminating critical race theory from their school systems. Ian Prior of Fight for Schools explained his recall campaign in Loudoun County and work he is doing to mobilize parents on education issues. And finally, Joe Werrell of NC Protect Our Students PAC explained how his group has vetted candidates, supported them, and taken over the school board in his community.
It was a successful day training the next generation of school board officers. We are excited to lead the charge as concerned citizens across the country save America's schools. The event will be posted online soon. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.