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Workshop gives school board candidates a glimpse at the ins and outs of the job 

Above board

Few things are more exciting than the rush of winning an election: Watching the ballot count grow in your favor, the cheers when you are confirmed as the winner, the acceptance speech, and the big balloon drop (if your campaign's got the cash for it). But when it's all over and the rush is gone, winning candidates must then get down to the nitty-gritty business of actually governing.

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George Galvan is currently serving as an elected trustee on the SLO County board of education. A former Atascadero school board member, Galvan was first elected to office 13 years ago. When asked what aspect of being a newly elected school board member was the most surprising, Galvan didn't have a glamorous answer, but instead brought up the Brown Act, a wonky tome of public meetings laws that lays out guidelines and procedures for elected boards across the state.

click to enlarge BACK TO SCHOOL More than 33 candidates are running for positions on school boards in 11 of SLO County's local school districts, as well as the county board of education. To help them out, the SLO County Office of Education held an Aug. 6 workshop outlining the duties and responsibilities for prospective candidates. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SLO COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Slo County Office Of Education
  • BACK TO SCHOOL More than 33 candidates are running for positions on school boards in 11 of SLO County's local school districts, as well as the county board of education. To help them out, the SLO County Office of Education held an Aug. 6 workshop outlining the duties and responsibilities for prospective candidates.

"The Brown Act is really important, and there's a lot to learn about it," Galvan told New Times. "If you are going to be a good board member, you've really got to understand the Brown Act."

It's this type of meat-and-potatoes advice that school board candidate hopefuls in SLO got at a Aug. 6 workshop organized by the SLO County Office of Education. The workshop, which the office holds each election season, gives prospective school board candidates a broad look at the job and its many responsibilities. This year, topics included school board meeting preparation; the three roles of a board member (elected official, volunteer, and "employee"); and, of course, the basics of the Brown Act. Guest speakers included Galvan, San Luis Coastal Unified School District school board member Ellen Sheffer, and SLO County Superintendent James Brescia.

"For citizens that are thinking about or interested in running, it's really a chance to give them an overview of what it's like," said Valerie Kraskey, administrative manager for the SLO County Office of Education.

Kraskey said that many new candidates are surprised to learn about the significant time commitment required for school board members. In addition to the regular board meetings, there's prep time, visits to school campuses, and attendance at events.

"It's a big job, and our trustees and board members have been doing it for many years," she said. "They are sort of unsung heros. It's government at a very local level, and the general public does not always see that."

Galvan said that he thought one of the most important personality traits that a good school board member should have is the ability to listen.

"You need to listen to everyone: staff, parents, students, other board members. You can learn a lot," he said. "Sometimes it's better to just listen than say something."

Galvan is currently running unopposed for re-election to the county board of education in the November elections. He is one of 33 candidates who have filed to run for positions in 11 school districts in the county. That isn't counting races for college educational board positions also on the ballot. The filing deadline to run for those board seats closed Aug. 12.

If you're lucky enough to be elected to serve on a school board, Galvan said the experience can be rewarding.

"You are entrusted with the education of people's children," he said. "It makes you a little humble, and it makes you really think about how important education is. It's the foundation of this country and our democracy." Δ

Staff Writer Chris McGuinness can be reached at cmcguinness@newtimesslo.com.

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