Boards of Trustees, Board of Education, Governing Board are all names for your local school district board. But who makes up your local school board? How did they become board members? And what exactly does a school board do?
For the past 10 years, I have assembled governing board packets, posted the agenda, and dealt with public requests regarding the local school board for the district that I work for. During this time, I have come to realize that most people in the community really do not know the answers to those questions.
So who makes up your local school board?
A school board member is an elected official. To be eligible to be a school board member in a school district, a person must be at least 18 years old, a registered voter, and live in the district that they would like to represent. According to the California School Boards Association (CSBA), in 2007-08, there were 331 unified school district, 556 elementary school districts, and 86 high school districts in California. Considering that each district has an average of five to seven school board members, which is a lot of elected officials representing local schools!
How did they become school board members?
Many are parents of children in the school district who wanted to be more involved in their child’s education. I have known parents who start off working on a school program, then they become the school’s parent-teacher association (PTA) President, and next thing you know, they are the newest school board member. Others are individuals who start off as a school board member before moving onto higher offices such as the local City Council or Mayor. There are many responsibilities that come with being a school board member.
What does a school board member do?
A board member’s responsibilities are defined by the school district’s board bylaws which is a set of codes and rules that the board must abide by. Specifically, according to California School Board Association board bylaw 9000, the role of the board is to set the direction that the district involves the community, parents/guardians/ staff; and develop and enforce an effective organizational structure for the district. This includes the power to hire and fire the superintendent; developing and adopting policies; establishing academic expectations; and establishing and adopting the budget. Other duties specified in BB 9000 include, providing safe facilities for instructional programs; setting the rules for negotiations with labor unions and ratifying collective bargaining agreements.
The chain of command is that the Superintendent reports to the board and the board reports to the public. The public has the power to initiate a recall election if they don’t like how the board member represents the school district. . A school board does not micromanage day-to-day activities of a district. This is a system of checks and balances that works well.
Are school board members paid for their work and how long is their term?
Yes. California education code 35120 sets the amount a school board member is paid based on the district’s average daily attendance (ADA). The term of a board member is normally set by the school district under BB 9110.
How often are meetings?
Each December (or in some cases, January), school boards across the state hold organizational meetings determine what the meeting dates for the year will be and who is the board President, Vice President, and Clerk. Depending on the size of the district, meetings could occur one to two times a month and special meetings are added as needed.
How do I become a board member?
Check with your local school district to find out how many seats will be open at the next election. Those interested need to file the correct paperwork and fees with the local county Registrar of Voters.
California Education Code
California School Boards Association, http://www.csba.org