It will come as no surprise to most of my readers that I have gone and done a thing: I am running for the Jefferson County Board of Education.
If you want to know my big issues and where I stand on them, you’ll find that over at paulareedforjeffcoschools.com. This isn’t about that.
It’s about how I ended up doing this.
First, I should tell you that I was thinking about running when I retired in May of 2018. I kept my Columbine faculty graduation robe and hood in anticipation of one day being the board member handing out diplomas at graduation ceremonies for the high schools in my district.
So when I was contacted by one of the people working on recruiting candidates regarding whether I would consider running, I said yes. Just like that. I think she was a little surprised that I didn’t ask for more time to think about it. She asked if I had questions. I said no. She asked if I wanted to talk to current or former board members. I said no. In fact, I have only recently begun to make these contacts.
I didn’t want to know because, honestly, the prospect of doing this scared me shitless, and I didn’t want anything tipping the scales to make me back out. I was already well aware that it has been a brutal year for the current board. Still, I wanted to jump in over my head and swim, damnit.
I love kids. I love Jeffco kids. When it comes to Jeffco schools and Jeffco teachers, I will say what I used to say to my ACE kiddos all the time: I have good news and bad news. The good news is I have unshakable faith in you. And the bad news is I have unshakable faith in you. Any kid who had me for ACE can tell you, my expectations are high. I also understand that it’s pretty ineffective to tell people who are working their asses off to just “be better; be excellent.” They need support. They need resources. They need someone who will cheer and cajole and never stop believing in them.
I got that in spades.
What I didn’t have was any idea how to run for office. I am incredibly fortunate to have savvy people helping me out in a class I take every other Saturday. It lasts six hours every time. At first, I figured it would move more slowly than I needed it to, and I wondered whether they really needed that much time to teach us everything we need to know.
Yes. Yes, they do. And while I certainly feel I keep up, it is most assuredly not too slow.
And can I just say how ridiculous I think it is that a local school board race requires a $50,000 budget? That’s what happens when organizations like Americans for Prosperity stick their fingers into local races. Those of us whose agendas do not align with the uber-wealthy have to figure out how to raise big dollars ourselves. Given past school board campaign budgets, whomever my opponent is will appear to raise and spend far less than I because they will get support in ways that do not have to be reported. Sneaky things like “community newspapers” sent to every county resident that appear to report local news, but are actually designed to disseminate propaganda around upcoming election issues.
Oh well. It is what it is. Of the $50k I need to raise, I have about $10k in contributions and pledges. Virtually every penny has come from people I know, at one level or another. It has come from friends, family, former classmates, former colleagues, Jeffco parents, educators and teachers, fellow church members, retirees from all kinds of professions, from education to healthcare.
These are not wealthy people. Their contributions, whether $25 or $500, are significant investments for them. With each donation, I feel that I am getting good news and bad news: The good news is people have unshakable faith in me. And the bad news is people have unshakable faith in me. I feel the accountability. I feel that faith. It’s scary and humbling and deeply moving.
Wish me luck over the next six months.