Jim Bays was recognized for serving 42 years as a School Board Director during a public reception on Monday, November 23

Jim Bays was recognized for serving 42 years as a School Board Director during a public reception on Monday, November 23

Jim Bays retired from 42 years serving as a school board director for Woodland Public Schools with his final board meeting on Monday, November 23, preceded by a special retirement reception for himself and two other board members, Tina Cayton and Jeremy Stuart, who served eight and four years on the board, respectively.

“Jim’s service to Woodland’s schools is a testament to his dedication to public service and a lifelong commitment to public education,” said Janice Watts, current Board President. “As a board, we thank Jim for his years of service and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Superintendent Michael Green echoed Watts’ sentiments, “A good school board is an integral element of an effective school district, and Jim’s perspective was incredibly valuable in guiding Woodland Public Schools over his years as a director,” he said. “Regardless of the issues facing the board, Jim always had the best interest of the schools, students, and community at heart.”

Bays started serving on the board following his graduation from high school when he was only 19 years old in 1973. “I was always interested in politics, having served as both the Vice President and President of my high school’s ASB while I attended, and I felt that I had a lot to offer in terms of my perspective as a young graduate,” said Bays. “In addition, I’m a very strong community guy, and I feel that people need to give back and be a part of their community to make it a better place.”

After his first election, some members of the school board were skeptical of Bays’ intentions and ability to offer the necessary insights because he was so young, but one board member, in particular, stands out in Bays’ memory as a mentor and inspiration. “I don’t think some of my fellow board members believed I could be a good board member because I was so young, with one notable exception – Don Stuart – who was the President of the Board when I started,” said Bays. “Don was certainly my mentor, and he is an awesome guy who gave me absolute respect from the first day I came on the board.”

In 1977, Bays married his wife, Sharlene, and had two children, a son and daughter, both of whom attended Woodland Public Schools. “Having kids didn’t change my perspective on schools, but it certainly made my serving on the board more important,” he said. “Being a board member wasn’t just about caring about the schools and the community, but I now had a vested interest because of my kids.”

Bays holds tremendous gratitude for his family’s support during his 42 years on the board. “There certainly were occasions where my time and attention had to be shared between my family and my commitment to the school district, and, often, it was not convenient to do so,” he said. “There’s no way I could have served this many years without my family’s amazing support.”

Bays remembers the need for all school board members to continue keeping up-to-date on the myriad of changes every board director faces. “The learning curve for a school board member goes away because there’s always something new to learn about schools, curriculum, staff, and so much more,” said Bays. “I regularly attended school director conferences over the years which provide board members with a lot of information; the conferences made me a lot more confident about my decisions by keeping me well-informed and providing an excellent basis of information.”

Serving on any board for more than four decades requires a lot of dedication, but, for Bays, his passion for education kept him coming back. “I’m not sure I’d describe serving on the board as a habit, but it was fascinating – I care about education and kids, and serving on the board helped me to carry out those passions,” he said. “I also have a passion for community and doing the right thing so serving on the board helped me to pursue all of my passions at the same time.”

As with any public institution, there were times when controversial issues generated public debate. Bays believes regular communication with the community is key to ensuring understanding. “While community members may disagree with you and how you vote on an issue, they will respect and support you if they understand and trust that you’re making the decisions you feel are best for their schools,” said Bays. “Over the years, people knew we were there trying to do the right things for the right reasons, and I think a lot of that has to do with making decisions with moderation – school boards aren’t partisan and we made the decisions we felt we needed to in order to allow our staff and schools to provide the best education possible for our kids.”

Finding the right time to retire wasn’t an easy decision for Bays. “For the last two or three terms, I considered not running for reelection, but there were always things that came up which I felt were important and needed to be done so I kept coming back,” he said. “Helping build and finish the new high school was definitely the biggest issue in my most recent term.”

Bays offers a few guiding principles for the board members who follow him. “I feel strongly in leading by example, and I believe hard work and commitment to any effort are obvious to the public; they are much more likely to provide their support and work alongside you if you lead by example,” he said. “The number one priority for the board is to do what’s best for kids; sometimes, board members are forced to make decisions where thinking about what’s best for kids might not always be what the community wants, and those are difficult issues where doing your homework and convincing the community you’ve done your homework is the only way to make the right decision.”

Bays also recognized the importance of acknowledging mistakes. “You need to not be afraid of saying you’ve made a mistake and fix it; there’s great virtue in being able to do that,” he said. “Some people get so focused on their position that they’re afraid to make a mistake because they think it looks like a sign of weakness, but I think it’s a sign of strength – absolute strength, as far as I’m concerned – and I believe the community sees it that way, too.”

When asked what he would miss the most, Bays said, “Everything – I’m going to miss being in the loop and the important decisions, I enjoy that.” Bays was also keen to say that he’s going to remain involved in the schools and the community. “Retiring from the board doesn’t mean that I’m going away.”

Bays commends the Woodland community for their support of their schools and for their support of each other. “I think the City of Woodland has great people with great spirit,” he said. “Woodland is a great place to be from, a great place to live, and a great place to raise a family; I can’t think of any place I’d rather be from.”

As for the future of Woodland Public Schools, Bays sees nothing but positive things for the staff, students, and community. “I see nothing but up from here – absolutely nothing but up,” he said. “I feel that with the opening of the new high school, we’ll see a jump in enrollment, not because people will come here for the new high school, but because the new school demonstrates the commitment this community has to its kids – the school is a sign to people that Woodland’s looking forward and valuing its future.”

If Bays had to choose one thing he would like the community to remember of his service on the board, he’d like them to feel he served the schools well. “I think the most important thing to me is that the community feels like I did a good job for kids and for our schools,” he said. “I truly consider my service an honor that the community presented to me, and I am grateful that they had faith in me all these years.”