Education feature: New school board member talks upcoming term


Jennifer Burrill

Attorney Jennifer Burrill officially joined the Clovis Municipal Schools Board of Education Tuesday after receiving her oath of office from retired Judge Teddy Hartley.

Burrill was chosen by the board in May to fill the position left vacant by the late Charles Guthals.

She answered five questions regarding her upcoming term and how the board can work together to help all children in the school district.

What made you interested in applying to be on the Clovis Municipal Schools Board of Education?

My daughter is starting first grade this year. As a parent that is one of the steps in her life that shifts your priorities, so I started looking for ways I could be more involved in her education. Education has always been a fundamental building block in my family and lifted us out of poverty. The day I enrolled my daughter at Mesa was the same day the announcement for the board vacancy was published. When I noticed that the Board of Education did not have any women, I thought that needed to change and promptly submitted by application.

How do you see your background in law helping you during your time on the school board?

My background is in criminal and family law. I am not an administrative or school lawyer. The Clovis schools already have people to advise them on legal issues facing the district. However, my background is one that clearly touches the lives of many children enrolled in school.

Much of the delinquency we see in the court system stems from children who have issues at home. It is difficult for children to focus on math and science when their parents are absent from the home because they are working 12-hour shifts, addicted to drugs/alcohol, going through a divorce, the children don’t have food to eat, or don’t know where they are going to sleep at night.

These are not exclusively social-economic issues; many affluent families operate in strife. The district has programs in place to assist students in these types of situations and we need to support and develop these programs. The statistics are clear that graduating from high school greatly reduces your chances of ending up in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, not every child has a strong support system at home. Our district needs to be the safety net for those children.

What other life experiences have prepared you for this position?

I don’t know that anything can prepare you fully, however I am a product of the public school system, and when I was in high school, I worked for the school television station that covered the school board meetings in Lubbock. I covered school board meetings for two years and in doing so watched a board that was in contention and conflict on each and every issue and accomplished very little.

As a board we are here to represent our respective districts. It is our job to seek the best possible outcomes for the students of Clovis. That requires us to work together to craft solutions to any issue we may face. There is no place for fighting. Each board member has a unique background and brings insight to every decision. We all respect the opinions of the other board members, even if our position is different.

What do you hope to help the school board accomplish during the upcoming school year?

I’m on the uphill side of a big learning curve. It’s been very exciting to learn about all the wonderful things going on in the district. It’s too early for me to announce any proposed goals.

I do, however, intend to focus on diversifying the education we provide to meet the needs of all students. We all travel a different path in life and many of those lead to successful careers. Not all students are bound for a four-year college. Showing those children there are alternative careers that don’t require a four-year degree is critical to making sure each child becomes a productive member of society.

As a parent, what issues/areas do you see within the schools that could use improvement?

We need to communicate all the programs we have to the community better, so that every child has a chance to take advantage of the remarkable opportunities this district offers.

— Compiled by CNJ staff writer Emily Crowe