3 leadership Vantage P oint: by CSBA President Susan Henry Writing our leadership stories The story of a school board member is one of leadership: building consensus, advocating for public education, and making the tough choices that strengthen schools and improve outcomes for students. We all have a leadership story that brought us to and sustains us through this extremely demanding and incredibly rewarding work. My leadership story has been greatly enriched during my time as CSBA President. Occupying this position has been a great honor and one of the most fulfilling experiences in my lifelong involvement with public educa-tion. My journey began as a student in Orange County, continued as a parent, volunteer and concerned citizen, and persists today through my service on the Huntington Beach Union High School District Board and CSBA’s Executive Committee. Others have taken different paths, and as a result, we bring varied perspectives to our local boards and to this orga-nization. Having traveled the length of the state and met so many board mem-bers, I think it’s amazing that we can come to con-sensus on a variety of issues despite the fact that we’re all so very different. What unites us is greater than what divides us. We are bonded by the common goals of supporting public schools, providing consistently high-quality education, preserving local control and secur-ing the funding needed to prepare all students for college, career and civic life. This is encouraging and inspiring, but on its own, it’s not enough. We must match our goals with the focus and effort needed to achieve them. A dream without a plan is just a wish. We need to be intentional, action-oriented and relentless about our mission to drive the education agenda. If not, our adversaries will fill the leadership void and take our schools in a different direction — one that is less local, less public, and ultimately less beneficial for students and communities. There is strength in numbers, and one of CSBA’s great assets is our size and our reach into every part of this vast and wonderful state. As we look ahead to the great challenges, particularly the fight for full and fair funding of public schools, we must do an even better job of leveraging the power of our numbers to drive the education agenda. If every board member responded to every action alert, attended Legislative Action Day, engaged with CSBA offerings online and on social media, participated in regional events, supported the CSBA PAC, took part in member trainings and partnered together in our work to build regional coalitions, we’d have 5,000 voices advocating as one for our students and amplifying our impact as an organization. We have a strong foundation on which to build. In 2017, CSBA exerted its influence more effectively than at any time in recent memory. We emerged triumphant from a three-year battle to fix the reserve cap, laid the groundwork for future legislative victories with the rollout of a grassroots network, published important research on student achieve-ment, expanded membership training and reinforced our leadership role in advocating for increased school funding. During this same period, the Legislature declined to vote on a school start time bill that would have eroded local authority. CSBA also emerged as a leading voice on the pension cri-sis, and we saved school districts and county offices more than half-a-billion dollars by thwarting bills with costly mandates. These victories resulted directly from the efforts of CSBA members, staff and allies and reintroduced the organization as a force to be reck-oned with in years to come. In order to build on that promise, we must fully embrace our advocacy role. We will not seek unnecessary conflict, but we cannot shy away from a fight when it is required to advance our goals for student achievement, the conditions of children, funding and finance and local governance. Education policy and education politics are, as CEO & Executive Director Vernon Billy says, “two sides of the same coin.” Whether that coin comes up heads or tails, we have to be ready, especially as we prepare to climb the great mountain of achieving full and fair funding for public education. We simply have to secure more resources for our schools. Districts have been as creative as they can be in stretching a dollar. It’s time we increased the number of dollars available so that every student has access to the resources needed for a high-quality education. I have fond memories of my school days and appreciate the education that brought me to this point in life. The current generation of students deserves the same kind of memories and a fair shot to succeed in college, career and civic life. Let’s make this happen and write the next, trium-phant chapter in our leadership stories.