I wanted to talk a bit more about the DeKalb school board candidates panel that I moderated Tuesday night. (I will post a link as the event was recorded and will be online.)
Eleven of the 12 candidates participated; one via Skype from out of the country. The event at Westwood College was packed and the audience was attentive.
Overall, I found the candidates informed and engaged, but here’s the problem. I spent 12 years as an editorial writer, which included interviewing hundreds of candidates running for public office, from U.S. president to local school board.
I realized early on that you cannot predict the bonkers factor. My colleagues and I would leave an interview impressed as heck with candidates. The candidates would have long and honorable histories in their communities. They would be bright, personable and, by any measure, seemingly fit for public office.
And they would get elected and lose all perspective.
They would fight with their colleagues, call me with whispered conversations about conspiracies against them, yell at constituents who brought them complaints. I have seen this occur with women and men, with young candidates just starting out in their careers and with older, successful people who have run their own businesses for decades.
You often cannot predict in advance how candidates will gel with their colleagues, how they will use their newly won powers and influence, or how they will react to the public pressure, which is unlike anything most of them have ever experienced. They are not accustomed to the media attention, the angry citizens lining up at the microphone at meetings to denounce them, the email accusations that they have no more backbone than a chocolate éclair. (As Theodore Roosevelt once said about William McKinley.)
I suggest that DeKalb citizens attend the remaining candidate forums, one of which is July 19 at Arabia Mountain High School. I also recommend that citizens read the candidates’ self-submitted bios. Most of them are posted on the eduKALB site. (A basic plea to all candidates: Hire a proofreader. I was surprised at the errors in some of the DeKalb school board candidate bios.)
But even after all of that, cast your vote with your fingers crossed that your choice for the school board will not derail once elected. DeKalb can’t afford too many more misses on its board, given the system’s precarious state and the need for real and sustained reform.
–from Maureen Downey for the AJC Get Schooled blog