Few things have a greater impact on our community than public schools. Public schools anchor our neighborhoods, serve as community gathering places, educate the local work force, contribute to local culture, and influence housing prices, economic development, and community growth.
Billings Public Schools has an annual budget of $100 million. Every year — year after year — school board decisions about where and how to spend this money have an enormous impact on where we are and where we’re going as a community.
A school board fully engaged with the community can direct available school funds toward the goals the community deems most important. These might include:
• Preparing students for life in the 21st century
• Modernizing and maintaining our school buildings
• Educating students for jobs in the local and Montana workplace
• Better serving the large number of our students who are not collegebound or who do not have the resources to complete 4-year or 2-year college degrees.
• Transforming potential dropouts into productive citizens who add value to the economy and enjoy personal success
If you want to be part of a better future for Billings, run for the school board. Many, many qualified and experienced business people in our community serve on boards for nonprofit organizations — but few run for the school board. This needs to change. The best and brightest the community has to offer should always be at the school board table.
In the coming years, the school board will have to make hard choices and hard decisions, ask the tough questions, work through differences, dig into financial information, and insist on fact-based decision making. It will have to understand that the key work of the school board is to make strategic decisions to give Billings the best possible value for its education dollars. We need people with knowledge and experience in finance, planning, business, budgeting, organizational management, organizational change, and community engagement.
With five school board seats up for election in May, this is the time to get involved and make a difference.
Run for the school board. Ask others to run. Find out who is running and what they stand for. Vote.
There are many people within the school district willing to work hard to make needed changes. You can help ensure that we have a highly qualified, deeply engaged board at the helm to help them succeed.
The decisions the school board makes today will define Billings for generations to come. No other community service you can engage in will have more impact.
Barbara Bryan and Peter Gesuale are trustees of Billings Public Schools.