WEEKLY COLUMN

Guest Commentary: Some Lemons attempting to get on the Hart School Governing Board

Posted on: 07/06/2013 02:00

“If life hands you lemons, make lemonade” is a popular idiom of justification used to maintain optimism and motivation but it’s still hard to take the sting out of a poor performance, even though you probably did the best you could.

     My lemon gathering began when the William S. Hart Union School District announced they were taking applications to fill a vacancy on the Governing Board after a member resigned. A crazy idea, but why not apply? Sit back and let me pour you a tall glass of lemonade.

     Over the years, I’ve participated in a number of committees: Sierra Vista Site Council; Canyon High Parent Advisory Committee; Measure V Bond Oversight Committee; Board Member Representative for the District Advisory Committee and currently a member of the City of Santa Clarita Library Citizens Advisory Committee. Additionally, all of my four children attended and graduated from Hart District schools. I felt those were decent credentials worthy of the position.

     The first day the applications were accepted, I carefully filled out the application and double and triple checked (I thought) the application and emailed the application that night.

     Then the first lemon appeared.

     The next morning I received an email saying they did not receive the attachment. What? I know how to send an email; it must have been their email servers. Whatever. I responded that I would resend when I got home. However, often I’m not very patient- I want it done ASAP. I remembered I had saved a copy in “the cloud.” So while at work, I downloaded and resent.

     Then another lemon…

    After resending I closely looked at the copy and realized it wasn’t the final version I originally sent. I had my home and work zip codes the same. I live in Canyon Country and work in Encino. Certainly not a big deal, but it didn’t represent attention to detail.

     For the next two weeks I tried not to obsess and decided I would take some action. Since there was a slight chance I could be selected, I wanted to be up-to-speed and spent a good amount of time reviewing Board meeting agendas, minutes; district web site; and school performance reports.

     Then the “Dear Candidates” email arrived with an attachment that contained a list of 14 applicants, including myself. I recognized some names but not others and began researching the names online. Uh-Oh. Some names didn’t come up with much information but others – very impressive- I knew I wasn’t in their league.

     The email also included 10 questions the Board members would ask during the interview. It also mentioned they may ask additional clarifying questions. No problem and I spent the weekend researching the questions, crafting meaningful answers, verifying my responses and in anticipation of the clarifying questions, making sure I’m up on current issues such as Common Core, Title 1 and A-G requirements.

       A few days later an email arrived mentioning that a training session for the person selected was changed to an inconvenient time. Now doubt is really beginning to set in. Can I do this? I would have to take the day off. How often would I have to do this?

     The following day a revised schedule is sent. Two applicants dropped out. My scheduled interview time was moved up by 40 minutes. Not sure if this good or bad.

     That night I didn’t really obsess over the questions. I felt I was pretty prepared and didn’t want to over prepare. After all I wanted to sound natural; not mechanical; not rehearsed.

       More lemons…

        On interview day, I arrived at the District offices early. Out of respect for the situation I left my phone in my car. I didn’t want the distraction. We were instructed to wait in conference room “A”. There three or four gentlemen were sitting, chatting and quickly introduced themselves. I took a seat at the opposite end of the large conference table. With no phone to occupy my time I took another quick peek at my notes and soon decided enough was enough.

          The polite chit-chat between all of us did help calm my nerves. In the 30 minutes I had to wait, I only got up to pace and use the restroom three or four times. At one point, someone mentioned their opening statement. Huh? An opening statement? That wasn’t in the letter. I didn’t have anything prepared. Uh-Oh.

      Then it was my turn. I was called to the podium and asked to introduce myself and we were off. I’m not afraid of public speaking; I just don’t have much experience. I babbled about living in Santa Clarita 21 years, kids married, job but little about why I am qualified to be on the Board.

     It began to rain lemons.

     Beginning with question one they go consecutively down the line and I generally stuck to my prepared answers. Fumbled a bit but somehow managed to get my point across.

     Then it falls apart. Not because of the prepared questions but the clarifying questions.

     Board member: “Do you know what the budget of the district is?”

     Me: “Ah...no”.

     Board member: “Do you know much money we get per student?”

     Me: “No…sorry”

    Two thoughts: “Why didn’t I look up those common numbers? And…. “I’m sunk.”

     Although rattled, I managed to answer a few more questions until the question that sealed my fate: “What else does the Board do?” So simple and yet complex. I froze. “Ah…um…policies….budget”. It was over.

     Despite the bumper crop of lemons that manifested, overall it was a positive experience and went as well as expected. I have nothing to be ashamed of; no extreme level of disappointment but perhaps a small amount of embarrassment and relief I didn’t get the spot.

      Also, I did gain a bit more practice standing before an intimidating organization; met some influential community leaders; reminded to think outside the box and will have enough lemonade to last the entire summer.

Brian Springer is a resident of Canyon Country who now is seeking a mentor for community politics and leadership. His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.


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