We can be the powers that be


Email Sandra Nichols

  "I know what it's like when a commoner — such as myself — loses an election, and I know what it's like to win. I have learned about the duties that follow the winning. And I want to talk with you about what it's like to be a School Board Trustee."

n the fifth of March there are some politicians who want your vote! You are seeing their ads and learning of their campaigns in the newspaper and other media. Which of you have thought, "I could do that"? Well, Baby Boomers! You have learned a lot. Step up to the plate. It's your turn at bat.

I want to talk with you about doing it! Putting yourself on the line. Running for office. And the work that follows being elected. I am here to tell you that it's do-able.

Some people are cut out for this line of work. Some majored in political science. Some grew into political life via student government. Some entered through the door of participation in another politician's campaign or work. Others buy their way into political power using their own wealth and connections in the business world.

And then there are the candidates who never dreamed of running for office. This group would include those passionate believers in a cause. Those candidates who are surprised to find themselves on the ballot. The politically non-savvy.

Those citizens who have developed an expertise in a field, motivated by a personal commitment to better that field, may not have the same sparkly shine at the microphone as their more politically inclined opponents. Watch for this. Try to look through the facade to the underlying character.

Inspiration to throw your hat into the political arena comes in many forms. Fighting words like, "Let's roll." Messages like, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country!" And in the words of Mario Savio (1964), "There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that ... you've got to put your bodies upon the gears ... upon all the apparatus, ... and you've got to make it stop."

Thank you for saying those words, Mario, JFK and Mr. Beamer. Thank you for inspiring us to take part.

I know what it's like when a commoner — such as myself — loses an election, and I know what it's like to win. I have learned about the duties that follow the winning. And I want to talk with you about what it's like to be a School Board Trustee.

First of all, there are some myths to be dispelled.

Myth: It's a thankless job!

I have heard this statement again and again, initially from my mother when I announced my intentions to run for the office. You see my dear, late father had been a Trustee, so my mother had witnessed — second hand — the trials and tribulations of serving on the School Board.

But Mom was wrong. I am often thanked for the positions I take and the work I do as a trustee. I am thanked by friends and strangers alike. Even my election opponents — most of them — have expressed their appreciation for my efforts. I have been hugged at the produce stand, honked and waved at by passers by and acknowledged at board meetings. I receive thank you notes, emails and phone calls. In no way is this a thankless job. In fact, standing up for the interests of students is rewarding and fulfilling.

Myth: Once you become elected, you will find that the view from behind the table is different from that of a private citizen.

Nope. This has not happened. As I took my seat at the School Board table the first night of my service and every meeting thereafter, I look around to see how the view might have changed. I see that the view has remained the same.

People who care about the schools are seated in the audience. Some of them take a turn at the microphone, sharing their knowledge and opinions.

School administrators and staffers present reports and answer questions.

And the School Board Trustees make comments, ask questions and vote.

It isn't always completely pleasant. Tempers flare. Angry words are exchanged. That's because these votes are important and people care about the outcome!

So, friends, my advice to you is to get out and vote on March 5. And while you're doing your civic duty, consider how else you could participate in the system. You might like to take the reins in the field of your expertise and passion. It might be time to make your mark on our community and our small planet. You don't have to become a politician to contribute and to work towards positive change.

We can be the powers that be!

Sandra Nichols is a Speech and Language Specialist and the Vice President of the PVUSD School Board. Her opinions are not necessarily those of the school board or of the Register-Pajaronian.

Sandra Nichols is a Speech and Language Specialist with Santa Cruz City Schools in Santa Cruz, California and sits on the Governing Board of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. This essay was first published in the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, Feb. 17, 2002. The opinions expressed are those of Sandra Nichols and do not necessarily represent those of any school district, print publication or web site.

© Sandra Nichols 2002