By Craig Prewitt

This is my 25th year on the Phoenix-Talent School Board. As School Board Member Appreciation Month draws to a close in Oregon and the filing period nears for school board seats across the state, I’ve begun to reflect on what school board service means.

I love being on my local school board. But misconceptions exist about the volunteer work we do and the long-term implications of our actions. Every two years we hold school board elections in Oregon, but except in a handful of larger urban areas these races go uncontested. In fact, May 2015 saw the lowest number of school board candidates in a decade, and four out of five races had either one or zero candidates.

Imagine that: No one willing to decide the future of our young people, and our state. That has to change. Why? School board members are unpaid.

But the value of our service is immeasurable.

When first elected to my current position, our district was feeling the effects of property tax limitations under Measure 5. Then, as now, there was great uncertainty about education funding across Oregon and locally. My wife and I had three school-age children; simply put, it made sense to step in so my children could experience the best public education possible.

My own kids are grown now, but I continue to serve on my board. The reason is simple: I believe that the provision Holiganbet of a good public education is the foundation of a strong society. As Benjamin Franklin put it: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” The more students we graduate, the more inroads we make in creating economic opportunities, reducing crime and building strong family structures.

Even though I am not in the classroom, through board service I help create reasons for every child to want schooling. Maybe it’s a class they love, or a sport that allows them to excel. Maybe the reason is choir, debate or band. Or even a bus driver or teacher ready with a kind word. Regardless of the reason, if it makes a child want to come to school then I have served my purpose.

School boards engage in complex, and sometimes difficult, decisions. We make choices about funding, curriculum, personnel, school calendars and, most importantly, children. All of those decisions are easier, however, if blanketed with the question, “What is best for kids?” The ugly face of politics disappears when the best interests of children drive every decision.

In Phoenix-Talent, it’s customary for a board member to hand students their diplomas, representing the next step on their life path. I cannot predict where that path will lead, but I hope that our school district has laid a foundation for their success and ultimate joy. I also hope that someday one or more of those students runs for my school board position. If they do, then they will know what I know: The best feeling in the world is to contribute to someone’s success in life.

Craig Prewitt is a member of the Phoenix-Talent School Board. The Oregon School Boards Association will offer two free webinars in February for prospective school board candidates. More information is at

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