Suzanne Smith: "Education is a family business"
TEDx speaker, blogger, and lifelong educator Suzanne Smith is running for Texas State Board of Education District 12, encompassing parts of Collin County and Northeast Dallas County. For Smith, this is her dream job, providing her an ability to be exposed to the world that she accredits much of her success to: public school education. Smith eventually became a teacher herself, following a family lineage of teachers and school administrators. Now, she is vying for an opportunity to serve students within the State of Texas through the capacity of an elected official, where she can transform public education spending.
Smith grew up in Rockwall, Texas, a suburban rural community Northeast of Dallas, Texas. Her family held a streak of wanting to make a difference in their communities; both of her parents became teachers and then eventually school administrators. Smith said “my drive to serve was embedded in who my family was”, noting that both of her parents worked in the public education system. By nature, she remembers her family being extremely politically engaged, recognizing at an early age Texas had a central focus on political participation in the 80s and 90s. Her father even ran for Rockwall County Commissioner, Place 2, in which Smith served as his campaign manager. She jokingly recalled a class assignment in 4th grade where she was asked to write a compare and contrast paper. While most of her classmates compared more simple figures, Smith distinctly remembers writing about the similarities and differences between Republicans and Democrats. Essentially, Smith was raised to be politically inclined.
Smith eventually became an adjunct professor herself, following in her parents’ footsteps, saying “education is the family business.” Smith worked what she considered “behind the scenes” in education for many years, including roles as a strategist, lobbyist, consultant, and professor. However, in the last five years, it became more apparent to her that those elected to office with a focus in education were more as politicians and less like public servants. Smith felt that the politician-type figures were utilizing their opinion without the solicitation of students, parents, and teachers alike. It was after this realization that Smith decided to run for office herself, with hopes of becoming the advocate she felt the Texas public education system needed.
Her journey into politics forced Smith to navigate new and uncharted waters. Smith began her political journey running for Dallas ISD Board Member for District 2 but was unsuccessful. Smith said she relied heavily on the experience she had running her father’s campaign but soon realized that there was a definite chasm between volunteering for a campaign and being the actual candidate, saying “the reality is nothing prepare you for running for office yourself.” Now that she is running again, she relies on the advice of friends who have been both candidates and elected officials themselves. She also participated in candidate trainings with the Dallas Breakfast Group and Annie’s List. Regardless of the training though, Smith believes that no one is fully prepared for a campaign until they have done it before, saying “you don’t know how to run for office until you run for office.”
If elected, Smith would represent District 12 for the Texas State Board of Education. Smith believes that the Texas public education system is “starving” for resources and attention. She believes that the vast majority of students today are not given the same value of education that Smith once received when she was a student. Smith says, “our public education system needs to pump out the best and the brightest to maintain the demand of the strong economy we find ourselves in.” Smith is worried that students today are not properly trained for the big-name employers headed to Texas; it is crucial for us to invest in our education system, so Texas can stay a leader economically.
When it comes to gender-based barriers, Smith said she has noticed it, but ignores it. Interestingly enough, Smith recalls times where she has been pat on the head in praise of running for office, knowing that a male candidate would never be touched in such a degrading manner. Smith believes that the most important thing for people to do is find a cause that they care about and let this cause lead their political activity. She says, “every woman reading this article should recognize that she has a huge amount of power, whether it is in politics or not. Women have to become more politically active.”
Suzanne Smith is currently running to represent District 12 on the State of Texas Board of Education. Her election will take place in November.