By JOSH NEWTON
Tahlequah Board of Education Vice President Luke Foster officially ends his run as a school board member today, five years after being elected to the position.
Foster’s decision not to seek re-election to a second term based on several factors, including his need to focus on his doctorate this semester.
“I’ve got to finish it, so I’m trying to cut out a lot of things, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to campaign or even serve very well, so I decided it was best,” said Foster.
He and his family may also be moving to a different home in Tahlequah later this year, and Foster didn’t want to be re-elected and have to resign if he moved from the ward he now represents.
Foster’s “day job” is NSU mathematics instructor. Over his five years on the board, Foster said the most enjoyable aspect was seeing the implementation of various programs.
“We got a bond passed and as a result, we were able to get some facilities we really needed,” said Foster. “I’ve also been able to see how well our money has been taken care of here, versus a lot of other school districts.”
His tenure on the board has paralleled some of the state’s biggest cuts to public-education funding. Foster has typically been outspoken about the state and federal decisions to cut funding or incorporate unfunded mandates, and was recently involved in the establishment of a Parent Legislative Action Committee to lobby for public schools in Cherokee County.
“When you’re having to deal with the state not giving you enough money, and you have to make cuts not just to programs, but to people, too, you’re put in a position where you’re trying to evaluate people and what their value is to the district, and I don’t think that’s fair,” said Foster. “I don’t like having to evaluate people in terms of trying to rank them.”
He admits he didn’t understand many of the jobs within the district when he first took his seat on the board of education, but gained a great deal of knowledge after seeing first-hand what those jobs entail.
“I’ve grown to appreciate those jobs,” said Foster. “
Foster spent his five years on the school board hoping to be open to communication with anyone who was willing to talk with him. He admits there are often differences of opinion among board members, administrators, school employees, students and parents.
“It’s hard whenever you have decisions [on the board] that are not unanimous, possible feelings that are hurt, and drama created,” said Foster. “That’s the part I didn’t like. But we all have our principles intact; we are who we are.”
Foster said he was recently described as being “real,” and appreciates the idea that he was approachable while not acting in his school board capacity. That open line of communication, he said, is vital for board members.
“I appreciate every bit of input that’s brought in, because we all bring a different view point,” said Foster. “You have to go in with an open mind. I really appreciated all the communication that people felt like they could share with me. The board can only act on information they have. If we don’t know, it’s hard to make informed decisions.”
Foster said the school district doesn’t belong to a select group of people, but instead to the community as a whole.
He hopes those who consider seeking a board seat in the future keep an open mind about what they’ll experience, and look at all the information available.
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