This is my first column as president of NSBA, so I’d like to introduce myself to those of you I haven’t met yet.

Like most school board members, my journey to school leadership began with my children. I first became involved in education as a parent, when my children started school, and I became president of the PTO and started serving on our elementary school site council.

During those days as a parent volunteer, I saw firsthand the powerful impact that every adult can have on a child’s life. It brought me back to my childhood. My parents instilled in me that every child is a gift to us—a child with a purpose— one whose life matters. I know you have seen the same. We serve as school board members because we know that every child matters.

I ran for a seat on the Seaman USD 345 Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas, in 2007. I have been active in the leadership of the Kansas Association of School Boards, serving as president.

In my professional life, I have worked in state social services and in the criminal justice system for over 25 years. I was appointed to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s Advisory Council on Education and served as a commissioner on the Education Commission of the States.

We all face common challenges, including teacher shortages, funding for special education, student mental health, and academic supports. Those are the issues that impact our students. Those are the issues that unite us. That’s where we need to focus.

But when we focus on partisan issues or other items that don’t directly impact a child’s education, that’s when we get distracted and divided.

We’re all in this together. We need to keep getting better, working hard, and moving forward in the service of public school students. Because every child matters. It is our responsibility, in partnership with families, to ensure that each child is given the individualized, specialized, and tailored opportunity to succeed and reach their God-given potential.

Regardless of conditions, needs, experiences, characteristics, and giftings, we take that combination, unique to each child, and work to bring about the best outcome for each and every student.

The next time you visit a school and your eyes meet the big brown, blue, or green eyes of a child, I want you to say to yourself, “Yes, I've got you!” Because every child matters.

When students have the academic, social, and emotional supports they need and an adult who cares about them, they are unstoppable. Likewise, when teachers, administrators, and staff have the resources they need and an advocate backing them, they are unstoppable.

When school board members are united, focused on common challenges, and moving forward to support our students and their needs, we, too, are unstoppable.

Frank Henderson Jr. is NSBA’s 2022-23 president and serves as president of the Seaman School Board in Topeka, Kansas.

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