Taking Down the Signs

“Karen…as you deal with the results of the election, please know that you ran an ethical, honest, community-driven, and student-focused race. What a fine woman you are. I am grateful my sons had you for a teacher…and I am glad we are friends. You are an incredible example of what humankind can be.”
–  Kathy

Okay – THAT brought me tears.

Rich won. I could not have run for school board with a nicer person. I guess if there’s one emotion I’m feeling right now it’s relief. I’m so glad it’s over! And I’m so glad I put my name in and had this adventure. I’ve met so many wonderful people on this journey. I feel huge gratitude for the support I’ve felt from my community the last six months. I am truly blessed.

I spent most of the day taking down campaign signs. It was a cleansing; a closure. Almost every sign had some memory associated with it that brought me a smile – new friends met; old friends who stepped forward and asked if they could plant signs in their yards; memories of strangers waving and smiling at me as I hammered stakes into the ground. I found one or two signs that I hadn’t even known were out there! That made me grin. 🙂

Today I’ve put two questions to myself –

If I had to do it over, would I still put my name in the race? Yes. I needed to run for this office. I wouldn’t have met all the amazing people I’ve met if I hadn’t done this. If I hadn’t run I would have missed out on a wonderful opportunity to move outside my comfort zone and challenge and stretch myself. I have this sense that there are other reasons I needed to run, too, that I haven’t even realized, yet.

Do I wish I’d won? No. I think I was meant to go down another path. I think there’s something else I’m supposed to do – something that’s tied in with running for this office, but not necessarily with winning. I’m not feeling any kind of disappointment or sadness at all in the election results.

“I love you Karen. Every person you encountered along this journey is a little better because they got a glimpse of you.”
– Linda

Yeah. THAT one made me teary, too.

campaign sign

 

An Ode to Campaign Signs

An Ode to Campaign Signs 

They were the first to the front –
the few, the proud. They stood
sentinel, silently, solemnly solo
pounded into hillsides and lawns,
mud and grass and gravel.
Six months later and their numbers
are down – disappeared into
dumpsters, shredded by county
mowers, confiscated because they
were planted in the wrong place.
Those that remain are bedraggled,
snapped by the wind, duct taped,
mud-splattered, tilted, askew –
but still they stand – the proud
the staunch, the few.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

campaign sign

What an Adventure This Has Been

What an adventure this has been! Running for school board has given me the opportunity to connect with amazing people in my community; and it’s given me the opportunity to stretch and grow, listen and share, and force myself to do things that I was scared to do (the public forum!!!). However this turns out, I’m so glad I put my name in this race. I’ve realized that my greatest fear of all was getting complacent and settled and stuck. I’m not done, yet, you know? There’s still so much to learn and do and be!

It started in June and now it is autumn
We’re in the ninth inning, at the very bottom
The signs are looking a little bedraggled today –
duct taped, leaning, and shredded along the way
But the adventures I’ve had! The people I’ve met!
Being in this race has shown me I’m not done, yet!
The pamphlets and ballots have come in your mail
And however this turns out – there’s no loss and no fail.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

campaign sign

School Board Candidates Forum

Participated in my first-ever public forum tonight as a candidate. I was so nervous – I think we all were – the other school board candidates and I were laughing about that before it started – I don’t think any of the other candidates had done one of these before, either. But we all survived and came out smiling and shaking hands and nobody threw tomatoes at us or anything.

Also – the Seahawks won.

It was a good night.

***

The League of Women Voters hosted the event at our local public library. All the school board candidates gave opening and closing speeches and in-between we were asked questions from the audience.

Here’s my opening speech:
It’s great to be here tonight with my teammates on this adventure. All of us – Bill, Holly, Rich and I – are running because we genuinely want to help our community. What I can bring to the board are my years of teaching experience – right now the board doesn’t have anyone with a teaching background on it. I have a Bachelor’s in Education and History from Washington State University, and a Master’s in Literacy from Walden University. I was a teacher for more than 30 years – for 20 of those years i was in the Burlington-Edison school district and taught at three of the schools there – Allen, Edison, and West View, the district’s dual language school. And for the last seven years I’ve taught at Emerson High School, the alternative high school in Mount Vernon. I think my teaching experience would add something positive to the board.

And here’s my closing bit:
I have a passion for teaching and learning. As I contemplated my retirement from teaching last spring I realized I still wanted to be a part of education – and it occurred to me that I could bring my experience and love for teaching to service on the school board.

My mom passed on two years ago. She was the youngest of ten children – eight of them daughters – and she was the only female in her family to get a university degree. Education was very important to her. My brothers and I knew growing up that there was an expectation we would go on to college. My mom worked as a teacher’s aide for many years and impacted a lot of young lives – she knew how to reach the struggling students. I still hear from some of her old students about how much my mom meant to them. I think Mom would be proud of me for running for school board – win or lose – I think she’d be proud that I put my name into the race.

I think I could bring a lot of good to the school board.

Thank you for inviting us all here tonight to share our visions with you.

campaign sign

On Karen’s Campaign Trail

My inner voice said, “You need to do this or you’re going to die.” The voice did not say I was going to win. The voice did not say it was going to be easy. Or fun. It just said that I should do this – you know, if I didn’t want to die and stuff. So. Yeah.

I wasn’t really sure what the voice meant by “die” – physically? mentally? emotionally? – but running for office seemed preferable to death. So one drizzly day I found myself walking down to the courthouse during lunch break. My shoes squeaked as I crossed the lobby – the long line of people waiting to get their cars licensed looked over at me – I grinned sheepishly and pointed to my shoes – and got some chuckles from the people in the line. I went to the elections office, was greeted by some cheery ladies behind a desk who pointed me to another office, where the mother of one of my former students asked me if I was running for school board. I told her yes, and I’d never done this before, and… how do I sign up? She smiled and put me in front of a computer where I typed in my name and other particulars and the next thing I knew it I was a political candidate.

I’d signed up on the last day a person COULD sign up – a Friday. It wasn’t until after I signed up that I learned the names of the other folks I was running against. One of them had a Spanish surname and I found myself feeling a huge sense of relief – like – oh! I can withdraw my name and use this woman with the HIspanic name as my excuse! I can say I want her to win because I support diversity and equality and rainbows and so forth. But the thing is – I knew the real reason I wanted to withdraw my name was because I was scared. Plain and simple. Yes, of course, I support diversity and equality among all people – but taking my name off the ballot wasn’t in any way going to promote those things. It was just going to give the voters less choices. It wasn’t going to guarantee that people who would have voted for me would now vote for the woman with the Spanish last name. It wasn’t going to help my school district to take my name off the ballot. In short, taking my name off the ballot was just going to make me a chicken shit. And so when Monday rolled around – the last day I could take my name off the ballot – I fought my cowardly urges, and kept my name in the race.

I am a responsible person who doesn’t particularly like responsibility. Maybe you’re like me? You take on responsibility because you know you’re the best one to take it on? I don’t enjoy being the boss. I don’t enjoy being responsible for other people. But my career as a teacher and my experiences helping my elderly parents have shown me that I’m good at it.

I think I could do a lot of good on the school board. I believe I have the background in education, and the maturity and experience, to bring progress to my school district. But – and how do I explain this part? – I am not afraid of failing. I’m not afraid of losing. What I am afraid of is not trying. What I am afraid of is not having the courage to do something that I feel is the right thing for me to do.

I’ve never thought of the other candidates running for this position as my opponents. It feels more like we’re teammates together – all working towards the same goal of helping our community. And I believe that whoever wins is going to rise to the occasion and do a good job for us. I believe the person who wins is the one who’s meant to win. And that might be me. And it might not.

It has been a wonderful trip so far. I’ve met some really amazing new friends, and reconnected with old friends and former students, who have stepped up and offered their support (and their lawns and corners for signs). I’ve had a lot of fun getting out in the community and meeting people – it has given me hope for the world to realize how many good people are out there being kind, being honest, doing right by each other.

There’s some reason my inner voice guided me down to the courthouse that day. There’s some lesson I’m supposed to learn, or something I’m supposed to do that’s going to help someone or something. I’m not sure, yet, what that is. I’m still not even sure that winning is a part of the whole deal. But I’m going to go forward and do my best to be honest and live with integrity, and trust that everything is unfolding as it should.

“Good try, though.” :)

Some wise guy turned around my campaign sign at the espresso stand so’s all you could see was the blank back of it. And I found myself cracking up. I could just picture it: I pictured a man with a baseball cap on his head, a cup of drip coffee in one hand and a rascally grin on his face – slyly reaching out and pulling my sign out of the dirt, giving it a stealthy 180 turn, and re-planting it. And – maybe it’s my background as a middle school teacher – but the idea of that just cracked me up.

It reminds me of my first day teaching eighth graders at Allen School: My partner, Teresa, and I both started in the B-E school district at Allen Elementary School the same year. Teresa taught science and math to the youngsters and I taught social studies and English. We were both dazzled by our students right from the start – I remember half-way through the day we both popped out of our classrooms at the same time, looked down the hall at each other, big grins on our faces, and said simultaneously, “I love these kids!”

At the end of the day we were outside the building, waving good bye to our new students as they loaded onto the buses, and we suddenly – again, both at the same time – looked at each other and said, “Where’s ____?!” We realized we were missing one of our students.

Without needing to say anything more to each other (and this is probably when I recognized my new partner and I had some special cosmic connection) we both hauled off in the same direction – towards the side of the school – rounded the corner and found our missing 8th grader in the process of lighting up a cigarette. Simultaneously, we yelled, “Busted!” He grinned at us and we grinned back. And that was the end of that. We established right from the get-go who he was dealing with that year, and we also established that we genuinely cared about him and he wasn’t invisible to us.

Finding the sign turned around this morning made me flashback to that scene at the side of the school all those years ago.

Ahem. And no – I did not leave the sign turned with its backside to the road. Good try, though. 

campaign sign

Running for School Board

So what happened was… one day during lunch I walked down to the courthouse in the drizzle, squeeked my way across the lobby (my shoes decided to show off to the long line of people waiting to get their vehicles registered), and announced to the ladies behind the election counter that I was going to run for office. They smiled and pointed to the next office over, and there I was greeted by the mother of one of my former students who asked me (and how did she know?!) if I was going to run for school board. She set me up in front of a little computer, I typed in my name and pushed a couple buttons, and – just like that! – I was a candidate!

Here’s my statement for the voter’s pamphlet:
I’ve been a teacher in Skagit County’s schools since my husband and I moved here 34 years ago. I taught in the Burlington-Edison School District from 1992-2012. For the last seven years I’ve taught at Emerson, a nonprofit alternative high school in Mount Vernon. Recently, I wrote a health supplement on teen drug abuse for an educational publishing company. Working for the publishing company gave me an opportunity to recognize the challenges students and teachers face today in education.

As an educator my mission has been to help my students build a solid foundation of knowledge and skills they can bring with them into the future; and to help them see the power they have to make the world a better place. I retired from teaching in spring of 2019. I’d like to bring my teaching experience with me to the Burlington-Edison school board.

Our sons are Burlington-Edison graduates. I appreciate the dedication of the teachers who gave them the skills they need to achieve their goals in life. I’d like the opportunity to give back to the teachers of Burlington-Edison now, and to support our young people, by serving on the school board.