About My Blog

Craig Colgan writes a blog that covers public officials who blog.  It’s called the Municipalist and can be found here:  http://municipalist.typepad.com/.

Mr. Colgan provided me with some questions and request to cover my blog.  In looking at his blog, I notice that many officials answer the questions in Q & A style.  I used the questions as a guide to write an essay.

Here’s what I submitted to Mr. Colgan.  The questions he sent to me are posted further down.

I began my blog when I announced that I would be a candidate for St. Vrain Valley School Board.  My intention is to continue to blog as long as I am in office.

My goals for the blog are to foster conversation about education issues, specifically in our school district; to build connections with constituents; to add transparency to the school board process, and to hold myself accountable by being “on the record.”

I have had some interest in writing a blog for some time, long before I decided to run for school board.  However, I am not a big fan of vanity blogs.  I am more motivated to write when it serves a purpose.  A blog about my experiences as a member of the school board seemed relevant.

The most difficult aspect of writing the blog is the time commitment.  I don’t always meet the test of openness that I had hoped because there are occasional stretches of time when I post nothing.  So, I am less transparent than I might be because I have “silent” stretches.

Our school board is a volunteer position.  As such, the work I do to pay our mortgage must occasional – and sometimes often – take priority.  When my work is busy, the blog is often the first thing that slides down the priority list.  My first priorities on school board are to make sure I am prepared for my duties and to listen and learn from constituents.  Keep the blog current falls down the priority list.

I do find that having a blog has a positive impact on my personal behavior as a public official.  I feel compelled to think through issues thoroughly.  I know that when I post my ideas and opinions on the blog a diverse group of readers will see what I have posted.  The diversity of people who I know read my blog helps to hold me accountable.  I can’t say what’s convenient or what I guess various people might like to hear.  An example of that is when I posted responses to campaign questionnaires from various interest groups.  I purposefully put them on my blog so that those with different interests could monitor if I am being consistent.

I appreciate the feedback I receive on and off line.  I know thought people are reading which makes writing worthwhile.  There are a few aspects of blogging that I don’t find completely satisfying.

First, I would like to see more people comment on the blog.  I would also like to see more people comment on one another’s comments.  I know that more people read than comment, which I am sure is normal.  I am hopeful, over time, that more a conversation will develop.

Second, I have not come to terms with the “thinking out loud” approach to blogging that many people encourage.  I would like it if people in public positions could think out loud more.  I believe that would be healthy.  There is a price to be paid for thinking out loud.  We live in a culture in which people expect public officials to think through issues before speaking.  There are pros and cons to this culture.  As I noted before, because I know my blog is read, I am challenged to be thoughtful.  That’s good.  But, because public officials often get chastised when they do think out loud (readers assume thinking out loud is a conclusion) it leads officials to be evasive.  That’s not good.

I am not always willing to pay the price that goes with thinking out loud,

I encourage public officials to blog.  On balance, the benefits far outweigh the costs.  The time commitment is worth it – even if what the official is able to do ebbs and flows.  In addition, we are only beginning to discover how online technologies can enhance public institutions, public service and democracy.  The only way that we will accelerate what we’re able to do is if public officials are active participants in the online world.

The blogs I read tend to be of two types.  I try to keep up with blogs written by people in the communities I serve and who write about topics relevant to the work I’m doing on school board (as well as professionally).  I do not tend to read blogs written by public officials from other regions.  Given the amount of material I must read on a regular basis, this is about all I can keep up with.

I would like to be more of a student of blogging so that what I do can improve over time.  For instance, I am far from proficient taking advantage of blogging tools such as trackbacks.

If people check back on my blog in a year, I hope that I am much improved.  I also hope that I am meeting my initial goals of fostering conversation, adding to transparency and holding myself accountable.

QUESTIONS that served as a guide:

* What is the history of your blog? What got you started? What are your goals for your blog?

* How has the experience of blogging changed you or your work, if at all?

* What are you some of your favorite moments or results or examples of impact of your blogging? What some of your worst moments (if any)?

* What advice would you give other school board members about whether they should blog?

* Did having a blog help you at election time, hurt you, or neither, and why?

* Should all elected officials blog?

* Also: I am starting to ask more people this: What other blogs by elected or appointed officials out there in your state or region or nationally do you read and/or admire (if any)?


One Response to “About My Blog”

  1. Brad Jolly Says:

    John, your willingness to blog in an effort to be transparent is one of the many things I admire about you.
    I share your wish that more people responded to both your blog entries and also to the responses of others.
    I have two specific questions that I would like to see you address on your blog.
    First, one of the things you like about public schools is that they force people from different groups to mingle (or at least be in the same building). Does this forced mixing go away if we (as you suggest) create a “portfolio of focus schools?” My belief is that it would, as the focus schools would tend to serve self-selected groups with similar interests.
    Second, you seem to be an advocate of differentiated instruction. This is an area where we find a lot of agreement. The district, however, has adopted the stance that the “achievement gaps” must be closed, and this often means stunting the potential of the best by underfunding their schools relative to low-performing schools. Differentiated instruction, properly done, would lead to a lot of talented kids graduating with skills light years beyond where our top 10% are today, and the achievement gaps would likely increase. What is your take on this?

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