You got elected to the School Board. Congratulations! You’d be forgiven if you secretly wondered: “Now what? What does the school board actually do? What does each member do?” According to Arizona’s District 79, “School board members are responsible for broad, futuristic thinking, minute analysis and decisive action in all areas that affect students and staff in their schools.” School boards play a distinct role and assume specific responsibilities in relation to the other stakeholders in the shared quest for educational attainment.
What School Boards Do
Broadly speaking, school boards promote excellence in district schools as leaders within the community. The state confers on school boards powers that are predominantly legislative; the school board sets rules that the superintendent executes. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) concurs, stressing also the centrality of active collaboration: “The most important responsibility of school boards is to work with their communities to improve student achievement in their local public schools …. In compliance with state and federal laws, school boards establish policies and regulations by which their local schools are governed.”
“Work with their communities” … “establish policies and regulations.” That is speaking broadly, indeed. Perhaps you really wanted to know what the school board to which you’ve been elected might do, say, tomorrow or next month. Specifically. Lucky for you, the Kentucky School Board Association provides a list of 37 particular tasks that a school board performs as a team. Their “School Board Member Job Description” reads as follows:
Build School District Leadership
Provide Fiscal Oversight
Manage District Policies
Advocate for Public Education
To this exhaustive list from Kentucky, sources from other states add only that their school boards manage the collective bargaining process. So, as for tomorrow or next month, your school board could be convening constituents for input on a future student awards ceremony, say, or voting on an annual budget, soliciting bids from builders or interviewing candidates for superintendent.
What School Boards Must Not Do
School boards do not implement the policies that they establish. That is the superintendent’s job. Nor do they oversee operations on a daily basis; professional managers do that. Nor do they provide performance reviews for staff; the board hires and evaluates the superintendent, who, in turn, hires all of the faculty and staff.
What Individual School Board Members Do
While board meetings often draw the spotlight, most of the work of the board members takes place between meetings. First and foremost, each school board member must be a good member of the team, doing a fair share of the work, coming prepared to school board meetings and supporting board policies. With that said, the actual jobs school board members perform are varied. They will:
What an Individual School Board Member Must Not Do
New school board members, in particular, should remind themselves that some acts are off-limits. No member of the school board has authority over school staff or anybody else participating in the district’s administrative processes. Finally, no school board member can publicly state his own views as if they represented those of the school board.
What do school boards do? They make goals, determine policies, hire a superintendent and set budgets – a mission they fulfill through a broad array of duties. Each school board member plays his part as a team member, an advocate for public education and a liaison to the public. When a school board achieves mastery in its many responsibilities, chances increase that someone else will achieve mastery: for instance, a child in the district whose mind is awakened in an atmosphere of excellence and opportunity –then another. And another….
Gates Chili (NY) Central School District, “Board Member Roles and Responsibilities,”
Great Schools, “What Makes a Great School Board Member?” https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/what-makes-a-great-school-board-member/
Kentucky School Board Association, “School Board Member Job Description,” https://www.ksba.org/SchoolBoardMemberJobDescription1.aspx
Litchfield Elementary School District #79, “What Do School Board Members Do?” http://www.lesd.k12.az.us/Content2/whatdoschoolboardmembersdo
NSBA, “Frequently Asked Questions about School Boards and Public Education,” at https://www.nsba.org/about-us/frequently-asked-questions
New Hampshire School Board Association, “Governance Roles,” https://www.nhsba.org/governanceroles.asp