What made a public-school board member take her children out of the system and send them to a Christian school?
Buffy Smith tells her story on Making the Leap, a podcast that encourages families to break free from the educational status quo.
Smith was frustrated with some of the choices her Missouri school district was making, so she decided to run for the board to help fix them.
“There were fiscal choices … I was becoming more and more concerned about,” she told the podcast’s hosts, Chris and Christine Stigall. “There was chatter in the community about them, and I thought, ‘Maybe a conservative voice, if you will, could be helpful in that conversation.’”
While Smith didn’t have a terrible experience on the board, she still wasn’t thrilled with everything she saw.
“I was very optimistic, very naïve when I ran,” she said. “[I thought], ‘I’m going to fix this, and everything will be wonderful and live happily ever after.’ I couldn’t.”
While still on the board she withdrew her children from the district and sent them to a private Christian school, for which she received a lot of criticism. Some called her a hypocrite for continuing to serve on the board.
“At the end of the day, we are tasked with doing what is best for our children,” Smith said in her own defense. “What was best for my children in that time was not where they were. It was not working for us for a multitude of reasons.”
And she believes all parents need to ask the same questions she did.
“I think the important thing is that we should all take a look at what we are doing – don’t just do it because everybody else in the neighborhood does it,” Smith insisted. “Is it working for you and for your children?
“How often do we trust any stranger with our children and send them into a building [and say], ‘Here, you go teach them; I’m sure whatever you’re teaching them is great’?”
She also observed that school board members put a lot of their trust in the superintendent.
“I didn’t really care for that [but] I did trust,” Smith recalled. “They [superintendents] are professionals, they are experts, and it is a lot to learn from budget to curriculum, to just how to manage a classroom.
“I think the problem is, there’s also a reason why the public elects a school board and why the system is set up that way – a system of checks and balances.”
Now that her children attend a Christian school, Smith is grateful for the smaller community and less-defensive leadership.
But that doesn’t mean she’s let her guard down.
“You can’t send your children somewhere for eight hours and say, ‘There you go, see you when I pick you up,’ and trust that everything is going to be perfect,” Smith says.
She urges parents to be fully engaged in their children’s school and not be afraid of challenging the status quo.
“Ask questions. Understand. Know what’s being taught. You might agree with every word of it and if so, that is wonderful. But you should know what is going on in the school. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut. It probably isn’t.”