January is School Board Recognition Month, a month dedicated to recognizing board members across the nation for their hard work. In honor of that, the Waxahachie Independent School District board members opened up about what it means to serve a community of nearly 8,000 students, more than 1,000 employees and countless parents:

Mark Price, President

Price was first elected to the WISD Board of Trustees in 2003. He’s been on the board for 10 years and seven months.

The DL: When you first joined the board, what did you expect the experience to be like?

Price: “I expected full financial transparency with a detailed accounting of all activities and taxpayer dollars spent. I expected everyone in the district to be working toward the same goals. This was not always the case, but much progress has been made over the past 10 years. We have a great community and school district. We have wonderful students, teachers, administrators and support staff. I don’t know why anyone would want to educate their children anywhere else.”

The DL: What is it actually like being a school board member?

Price: “It’s an honor to be a board member. We all serve on the board because we love children and education. Some of us serve to be the communities’ watchdog over our tax dollars. Our board members have varied backgrounds and this makes for great discussion as we tackle many of the issues that come before us.”

The DL: What is the best part about being a board member?

Price: “The best part of being a board member is having the opportunity to recognize and honor our students. Whether recognizing an elementary student for an achievement at a board meeting or shaking the hand of a high school graduate as he or she walks across the stage on graduation night, these are the memories that I will carry with me for life.”

The DL: What is the most difficult part?

Price: “Board trustees dedicate many hours of volunteer service as we prepare for and attend meetings or as we obtain our many hours of state mandated education. It is not always easy to work these meetings into everyone’s busy schedules, so many times other family matters may have to take a back seat to school business meetings. Our board is totally dedicated to this district and community and we enjoy our unpaid service.”

The DL: What kind of recognition do you receive as a school board member?

Price: “Not much. Most don’t even know who their school board members are and we surely don’t serve for the recognition. We are happy plugging away in the background trying to make our community a better place to live and raise families. “

Evelyn Coleman, Vice President

Coleman is in the middle of her eighth year as a WISD board member.

The DL: When you first joined the board, what did you expect the experience to be like?

Coleman: “I had some idea from having attended study sessions as an administrator, but I didn’t realize how much time was spent preparing beyond the regular meeting times. “

The DL: What is it actually like being a school board member?

Coleman: “I realized the importance of the decisions made by the board members and you have so many different entities within the community that you work with, but I think its been rewarding. “

The DL: What is the best part about being a board member?

Coleman: “Hopefully, making a positive impact on the students and this community.”

The DL: What is the most difficult part?

Coleman: “If it would be anything, it would be the time requirements, but I can’t think of anything that has been difficult.”

The DL: What kind of recognition do you receive as a school board member?

Coleman: “Each year the principals and students of the campuses recognize us for the month, but I don’t think it’s anything they have to do. The reward for me is giving back to my community.”

Gary Fox, Secretary

Fox has been part of the board for five years.

The DL: When you first joined the board, what did you expect the experience to be like?

Fox: “I didn’t have a reason for running except to continue my work in education, and it was pretty well all I expected. Everyone was nice and I gradually understood things, you know? You can’t just come out of the community and get on the board and know what’s going on. It takes a good year to just understand what’s happening.”

The DL: What is it actually like being a school board member?

Fox: “Since my background is in education, I’ve seen it all. Kids are all the same, they’ve all got one goal in mind and that’s to do their best. Kids want to do their best, they want to do good in school. Our job as educators is to keep them learning and keep them happy.”

The DL: What is the best part about being a board member?

Fox: “I read something that said in education, you spend a lot of time showing kids what they can’t do, because when they first start school, they’re visionaries. Then, as time goes on, if we don’t keep encouraging them, they’re going to lose some of that. And our job is to help their futures be brighter when they graduate, than as it was then they started school.”

The DL: What is the most difficult part?

Fox: “Standing up for decisions you make when other people don’t agree with you. I’m a hometown boy, I know the pulse of Waxahachie, been here all my life. And it’s never hard to make the right decision as long as you focus on what you’re here for, and that’s the kids of Waxahachie.”

The DL: What kind of recognition do you receive as a school board member?

Fox: “I believe whole-heartedly that you can’t make decisions unless you know what’s going on. We go to all the ball games we can go to, we go to support the fine arts, we go to pep rallies, and that’s the best part. Knowing that the kids know who you are and knowing that they know you care about them.”

Floyd Bates, board member

Bates has served on the board for four years.

The DL: When you first joined the board, what did you expect the experience to be like?

Bates: “I think I felt like I could make a difference for our kids, and I think I have been able to do that. I expected to have an opportunity to use my experience and life skills to make our schools better.”

The DL: What is it actually like being a school board member?

Bates: “We have limited control when it comes to some issues regarding state mandates that are placed on us. However, there are things we can do to make it better even though we have to live with the mandates they have to pass down to the districts, and I think we’ve been able to do that.”

The DL: What is the best part about being a board member?

Bates: “Being able to make a difference, being able to stand in the gap to watch out for the tax payers, to spend money wisely. The best part, if I were to condense it down, is being able to make a difference for our kids and our schools and that’s really fulfilling.”

The DL: What is the most difficult part?

Bates: “Having our hands tied on certain issues that we don’t have any control over.”

The DL: What kind of recognition do you receive as a school board member?

Bates: “I consider recognition as acknowledging the fact that we’re making a difference for our kids and for our tax payers, when a parent or student comes up and lets me know I’ve helped make a difference.”

Joe Langley, board member

Langley has served on the WISD Board of Trustees for almost 15 years.

The DL: When you first joined the board, what did you expect the experience to be like?

Langley:” I had a little bit of awareness. I made a point to attend all the meetings for a one-year period before I got on the board. I was pretty much aware of what type of decisions the board was dealing with. I also just had a very high respect for the people on the board. When I wanted to continue my involvement, I thought working with those people would have a real fulfillment. “

The DL: What is it actually like being a school board member?

Langley: “Every year I’ve been on the board, I hope that I can better understand what is best done as a trustee. You get a strong superintendent, and he gets a strong administration, and they run the district. You’re involved in the goal setting, and the budgeting.”

The DL: What is the best part about being a board member?

Langley: “That’s easy, the letters you get from the kids. I think some of the teachers and some of the campuses have a class project, and you get letters, and those are the ones you save. You look back at those and it really tells you why you’re doing this: You’re doing it for the kids.

I’m in a unique situation. Those kids that are graduating this year, I’ve been on the board their whole academic career, and to hear how they’ve enjoyed school, that’s also the best part.”

The DL: What is the most difficult part?

Langley: Financially, we want to provide what they need and what our taxpayers can do. Finding that line is the hardest part for me.

The DL: What kind of recognition do you receive as a school board member?

Langley: “I think there are community leaders in town that recognize the job that we’ve done, and getting a letter from an elementary kid that says “I love my new playground” — those things. You really don’t want a lot of attention on the school board, it should be on the teachers and campuses and kids. If there’s a lot of attention on us, then we’re not doing our job, probably.”

Mike Lee, Board member

Lee has been on the board of trustees for three years.

The DL: When you first joined the board, what did you expect the experience to be like?

Lee: “I had served on boards all of my career, so I knew what it would be like. I also went on to serve the superintendent Mr. (Thomas) Collins and he was a very good man, and my children got a very education and as a result I wanted to keep that going in Waxahachie and improve on it, because we have a good system.”

The DL: What is it actually like being a school board member?

Lee: “You’ve got a lot of material to look at, a lot of things to understand. So it really calls on a whole scope of skill sets and challenges. You have to be able to sit in a meeting with the superintendent and staff and quickly understand what’s going on and help them sort through everything to make the best decision. Being a board member is a real job, you’re making critical decisions for the community, and you’re working with the community to understand what they desire and want to happen in their schools.”

The DL: What is the best part about being a board member?

Lee: “Watching the successes. Whenever you start seeing those youngsters come forward and take on productive responsibilities and positions across the city and nation, that’s the most rewarding thing you could ever see.”

The DL: What is the most difficult part?

Lee: “You have so many good things, and you have to select what’s most important out of those things. Really choosing something that is important is often done at the expense of something else maybe not as important.”

The DL: What kind of recognition do you receive as a school board member?

Lee: “I think last night (at the Monday, Jan. 13 school board meeting), I had each one of the schools take the time give us mementos. The ones where the little children wrote little statements, or when they gave us cookies that were ‘Thanks for helping us be smart,’ cookies. Those things, or being able to see the bright lights out on the stadium, or seeing the smile of Mr. (Rich) Armstrong (the WHS band director) and his two top band leaders, that’s priceless.”

Mike Robinson, board member

Robinson has been on the school board for three years.

The DL: When you first joined the board, what did you expect the experience to be like?

Robinson: “I wanted to make a difference and help make WISD a better school system.”

The DL: What is it actually like being a school board member?

Robinson: “I do believe it is like most new things. It's been a learning experience for me. I have been exposed to a wide variety of new areas. I hope I have had a positive influence on this board and WISD.”

The DL: What is the best part about being a board member?

Robinson: “Being involved in the plans and goals of WISD. The education of our children is one of the most important aspects of our community. From technology, to facilities, to curriculum, to teachers (to name a few), we must make strides to make WISD a highly recognized school district and keep it there for years to come.”

The DL: What is the most difficult part?

Robinson: “You will not make everyone happy. I try to best represent the students and faculty to the best of my abilities.”

The DL: What kind of recognition do you receive as a school board member?

Robinson: “I don't need any. I volunteered and have benefited and grown personally. That is enough, but I do appreciate and I am thankful for nights like last Monday’s school board appreciation night.”