Time to pay school board members? (Thinkstock)

Lynne Varner, in her Seattle Times column, argues that the race to fill a vacancy on Seattle's School Board highlights a stark need to pay members.

Everyone should occasionally rethink closely held convictions. In this summer of watching Seattle School Board candidates on the political hustings, here's mine: It is time to pay board members.

I mean a salary, not the current per diem capped at $4,800 a year. In the past, I bought into the notion that community service comes gratis. You don't get paid for giving back.

That rule may still hold true in small, homogeneous districts. But those vying for a seat on Seattle's School Board are seeking responsibility for a large, complex, billion-dollar enterprise. While district watchers can be like the proverbial blind men feeling different parts of an elephant ‚ÄĒ knowing everything about the trunk, little about the legs ‚ÄĒ board members must understand the whole.

But too often they don't. I recently called on the public to send me questions for board candidates. The breadth and depth of queries underscored a public expectation that board members deeply immerse themselves in policy and personnel issues. I agree. But that's more than a volunteer role.

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Among the dozens of questions about bilingual and special education, alternative schools, math curricula and nutritional policies, questions about board governance underscored a public desire for a board that plays more of a devil's advocate role.

Read Lynne Varner's entire column in the Seattle Times.

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