Book Review

Empowering School Leaders: Personal Political Power for School Board Members and Administrators

by Joel Blackwell, Rowman and Littlefield Education, Lanham, Md., 2006, 224 pp., $24.95 softcover

As administrators we often question what legislators were thinking when they pass a bill while we look for ways to make them understand the realities of a school district. Feeling powerless, we search for ways to incorporate one more state and/or federal mandate into the district’s already comprehensive curriculum.

Joel Blackwell, a former editor at the Miami Herald and Charlotte Observer and founder of Issue Management Co., a media relations and grassroots lobbying firm, demystifies the lobbying process in an effort to increase the political clout of anyone interested in affecting educational issues.

In his book, Empowering School Leaders, Blackwell discusses the lobbying process in detail using interviews, a description of the process at all levels and various activities that can be used by educators and school board members to get their message to legislators.

The book is divided into two sections as well as an extensive appendix. Part I is titled “People in Politics” and uses interviews to describe the functions of those who are part of the legislative process. This includes paid professional lobbyists, volunteers who are passionate about a cause, the staff members in the legislative office and elected officials. Part II, “How Ordinary People Can Get What They Want From Government,” describes the grassroots approach to getting one’s concern presented to the legislator.

Fundamentally, Blackwell states that one should present ideas with personal passion in a brief and clear manner, using specific data whenever possible. In addition, one must consider the broad appeal of the issue because elected officials, first and foremost, have obligations to all their constituents.

Reviewed by Edythe B. Austermuhl, superintendent, Deerfield Township School District, Rosenhayn, N.J.