As a school board member, you will represent the public’s voice in public education. What are some ideas you have to accurately and fairly represent the public when your constituents have conflicting points of view?
There will always be differing viewpoints on school issues. Last week, a leading scholar on Education research and policy tweeted: “I think I’ve gathered enough evidence from the PTA listserve to conclude that for every single decision the school or district has made, there are people who love it and people who hate it.” (credit to @cara_jackson on Twitter)
Joking aside, I see three ways I can ensure fair and accurate representation to achieve the best outcomes for our kids. First, as a board member, I am committed to open communication and transparency (as much as the law allows) to build community consensus on important topics that affect our schools. Second, I am committed to researching and advancing up to the minute evidence-based practices. Finally, I bring a unique skill set from almost two decades as an attorney - the ability to facilitate compromise in difficult, high-stakes situations.
To elaborate, I am committed to listening to my constituents and staying abreast of current issues in the district. I am an excellent listener and adept at communicating with all types of folks with different levels of understanding and interests. To accomplish this goal, I will commit to monthly “Wednesdays with Whitney.” Every month, on the Wednesday of the week preceding the monthly board meeting, I will make myself available by phone, text, Zoom, in person appointments, and/or site visits, to meet with any and every stakeholder who wants to share their perspectives. These meetings will allow me to listen and learn about the issues on their minds. The schedule gives me a full week to research, seek out other viewpoints, and prepare for the next meeting, so I can be well-informed when making important decisions that affect our kids. This technique has proven successful for me working on other boards, as chair of our county-wide Homeless Court Program, and as a director of the Stand Down program for homeless veterans.
Next, I am a very resourceful and meticulous researcher. Going back to Theory of Knowledge with Mr. Mayfield, all the way through my post-graduate studies in law and business at Vanderbilt, and throughout my years as a volunteer coach for high school mock trial, I have loved learning and diving into new subjects and issues. Even now, working as an attorney handling writs and appeals in the Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court, I have to stay on top of all types of legal developments to best represent my clients. I will use the same skills to research and identify the best practices in education policy and school governance. It is vital for a school board member holding the public trust to stay up-to-date on developments in these fields. That way, one can be prepared to deploy them when needed to adapt to ever changing situations (like school reopenings amidst a global pandemic).
Most importantly, I negotiate deals, settlements, and compromises for a living. Approximately 90% of our cases resolve with a settlement. That means for the last two decades as an attorney, public servant, and litigator, I have negotiated for clients in life and death situations to get the best possible outcomes. This skill set is perfectly suited to tackle the issue raised here. Where constituents have differing points of view, or two sides just can’t seem to find common ground in a contract negotiation, I can find meaningful, workable, and realistic solutions.
I have one guiding principle in the campaign and in my tenure if elected - it’s all about the kids! When views differ - and we know they always will - I am committed to open communication and learning about all sides of an issue. I will always do my own homework to see how similar concerns have been successfully approached by others, and I will use my skills as a negotiator and consensus builder to find solutions. More than anything else, I will use my critical mind and sound judgment to always do what is best for our kids.