The school board is the governing body of a school district. Board members are the only elected officials within an individual school district who have a say in the daily operations of that school district. A district is only as good as the board members who make up the entirety of the board. Becoming a school board member is not for everyone: You must be willing to listen to and work with others and be an adept and active problem solver.
Boards where members bond and agree on most issues usually oversee an effective school district. Boards that are split and feud often have disarray and turmoil, which ultimately undermines the mission of schools in the district. A board's decisions matter: Poor decisions can lead to ineffectiveness, but good decisions will improve the overall quality of the school or schools in the district.
Qualifications to Run for School Board
There are five common qualifications that most states have in order to be eligible to be a candidate in a school board election. A school board candidate must:
- Be a registered voter.
- Be a resident of the district she is running in
- Have at least a high school diploma or a certificate of high school equivalency
- Not have been convicted of a felony
- Not be a current employee of the district and/or be related to a current employee in that district.
Although these are the most common qualifications necessary to run for school board, it does vary from state to state. Check with your local election board for a more detailed list of required qualifications.
Reasons to Become a School Board Member
Becoming a school board member is a serious commitment. It takes quite a bit of time and dedication to be an effective school board member. Unfortunately, not every person who runs for a school board election is doing it for the right reasons. Each individual who chooses to be a candidate in a school board election does so for his own personal reasons. Candidates may run for a school board seat because they:
- Have a child in the district and want to have a direct impact on their education.
- Love politics and want to be an active participant in the political aspects of the school district.
- Want to serve and support the district.
- Believe they can make a difference in the overall quality of education that the school is providing.
- Have a personal vendetta against a teacher/coach/administrator and want to get rid of them.
Composition of the School Board
A school board is usually made up of three, five or seven members depending on the size and configuration of that district. Each position is an elected one and terms are typically either four or six years. Regular meetings are held once a month, typically at the same time each month (such as the second Monday of each month).
A school board typically is made up of a president, vice president, and secretary. The positions are nominated and chosen by the board members themselves. Officer positions are typically chosen once a year.
Duties of the School Board
A school board is designed as the principle democratic body that represents local citizens on education and school-related issues. Being a school board member isn't easy. Board members have to stay up-to-date on current educational issues, must be able to understand education jargon and have to listen to parents and other community members who want to pitch their idea on how to improve the district. The role of the board of education plays in a school district is vast.
The board is responsible for hiring/evaluating/terminating the district superintendent. This is probably the most important duty of the board of education. The district's superintendent is the face of the district and is ultimately responsible for managing the daily operations of the school district. Every district needs a superintendent who is trustworthy and who has a good relationship with their board members. When a superintendent and school board are not on the same page, chaos can ensue. The board of education develops policy and direction for the school district.
The board of education also:
- Prioritizes and approves the budget for the school district.
- Has the final say on hiring school personnel and/or terminating a current employee in the district.
- Establishes the vision that reflects the overall goals of the community, staff, and the board.
- Makes decisions on school expansion or closure.
- Manages the collective bargaining process for the district's employees.
- Approves many components of the district's daily operations including the school calendar, contracts with outside vendors and curriculum
The duties of a board of education are much more comprehensive than those listed above. Board members put in a lot of time in what essentially amounts to a volunteer position. Good board members are invaluable to a school district's development and success. The most effective school boards are arguably those that have a direct impact on nearly every facet of the school but do so in obscurity rather than the limelight.