In 2016, then-24-year-old Cipriano Vargas became the youngest person ever elected to the Vista Unified School Board in California. After graduating from California State University San Marcos, where he served on the Board of Trustees for the entire Cal State system, he went on to teach kindergarten for two years in San Antonio, Texas.
When he returned to his hometown, Vargas was determined to ensure all kids in the Vista district were as well-prepared as he was for college, career and cultural competence. “I want to ensure students have the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century,” he said in a campaign video.
These days, Vargas is immersed in helping his alma mater, Vista High School, transform itself into a personalized learning community as an XQ Super School. As part of his work, he recently visited Preuss UCSD High School, which has been nationally recognized for its strong track record of helping first-generation college aspirants not only enroll but graduate from college.
Today, XQ is releasing a pair of first-of-their-kind tools designed to help more people become school board members like Vargas. Currently, more than 95,000 public school board members hold sway over more than $600 billion in funds to educate more than 50 million public students in grades K-12.
A new guide, “That’s A School Board Thing,” offers a variety of entry points to the world of school boards, from the very basics of how to run for office to how sitting board members can better advocate for high school transformation. A handy School Board Lookup Tool helps people learn more about the school board in their own community: when it meets, whether it is elected or appointed, who the members are and sample questions they can ask their local school board.
"School boards are charged with creating the conditions for neighborhoods to thrive and with enabling schools and educators to fuel the hopes and dreams of every student and family,” said Russlynn Ali, co-founder and CEO of XQ. “School board members are the rightful guardians of every community’s future. To fulfill that sacred obligation, they need to hear your voice.”
The tools make it easy for anyone—especially busy parents—to quickly understand the work of school boards, how their local board operates and inspire them to get involved.
“Parents know they play an important role in their child’s education, and they want to be engaged to support their success. The challenge for many parents, however, is knowing what they can do and how to get involved,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA.
“Providing parents with information and tools like XQ’s new ‘That’s a School Board Thing’ helps empower them to get involved and engage with local education decision-makers to make their and every child’s potential a reality.”
XQ’s new tools are designed to demystify school boards by getting important information and data in the hands of the community to help them make their voices heard. And even for those already knowledgeable or active with their local boards, these tools will help them lead high school transformation in their communities so students graduate truly prepared for college, career and life.“We believe [pullquote position="left"]education is a civil right, and public education is America’s most vital institution. School board members have the responsibility to ensure that students have the ability to obtain the best education possible,” said Tom Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association.
“We are pleased that XQ recognizes the important role of school boards and welcome their effort to provide resources to empower school board members and their communities to engage together more effectively."
Maureen Kelleher is Editorial Partner at Ed Post. She is a veteran education reporter, a former high school English teacher, and also the proud mom of an elementary student in Chicago Public Schools. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. Between 1998 and 2006 she was an associate editor at Catalyst Chicago, the go-to ...