AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry has proclaimed January 2009 as School Board Recognition Month. Districts across the state will use this opportunity to show their appreciation of the vital role elected boards of education play in their local schools and communities.

"The biggest challenge of education is also one of its greatest strengths," Perry said. "During a time when state and national mandates rightly place more emphasis than ever on setting the bar high for education, it remains important for each community to retain control of its own educational system."

Perry said school board members help keep districts moving forward by managing budgets in the information and technology era.

"Balancing the need for local control with directives coming down from larger governmental bodies is neither an easy nor oftentimes appreciated task, but for over two centuries, school boards have risen to such challenges," Perry said. "Complicating matters further are issues such as the rapidly-expanding role of technology in the classroom, the challenge to keep our children both educated and physically active, and-as always-the difficulties inherent in dealing with budgetary priorities."

Perry said Texans everywhere should praise board members, who do not get paid for the time they put into board meetings and duties.

"The people who make up these boards are uncompensated and, all too often, unsung for their efforts," Perry said. "These people volunteer their time because they care; they care about their communities, they care about their schools and, most importantly, they care about the children."

The governor said this month will be a time for people everywhere to recognize school board members in their respective school districts.

"Each year the Texas Association of School Boards designates January as School Board Recognition Month, to emphasize to all of us the importance of the services these dedicated men and women provide to the schools and children of Texas," Perry said. "At this time, I urge all Texans to recognize the invaluable contributions realized through the work of our school boards."

James Crow, Texas Association of School Boards executive director, said school boards are critical to ensuring public trust and making sure students receive the support they need to become productive citizens.

"Today's public schools face tremendous challenges and opportunities, making the school board's role more critical than ever before," Crow said. "Local trustees diligently work with community leaders, parents, and educators to develop sound education policies.

"They help set high standards in the education system, encouraging us to strive to reach those goals and better prepare the next generation of leaders in our state and nation."

Crow said people might be surprised at the amount of work that goes into a board member's service. Once they realize the magnitude of the service involved, though, appreciation becomes clear.

"We urge every community to acknowledge the commitment that board service requires of more than 7,000 locally elected school board members in Texas and support them as they tackle the enormous task of governing school districts," Crow said. "We applaud their dedication as they offer vision and leadership and work to empower every child to succeed."