Welcome to the Association of Alaska School Boards!
At the Association of Alaska School Boards (AASB), we realize that people most often come to a position on the School Board as concerned citizens who want to make a difference. We also know that there is very little in anyone's previous experiences that fully prepare them for serving as a public official and a constructive member of a governing Board.
Our goal is to welcome you to the world of public service and get you started on the road to effective governance.
Making the Most of Your First Year: What New School Board Members Want to Know
#1 The Role of the Board (made available Jan 14, 2013)
#2 Board Standards (Jan 24)
#3 The Superintendent, Building a Relationship (Feb 5)
#4 Working with the Board (Feb. 22)
#5 Meetings (March 19)
#6 Working with the Community (April 3)
#7 School Finance (May 13)
Getting New School Board Members Off to A Running Start
The responsibility to oversee the educational program for the school district is on the shoulders of the Board of Education. Having this responsibility does not mean that board members have to know how to teach school or administer a building, develop a curriculum, and determine which textbooks to purchase.
It does mean that each board member must carefully read material on a variety of subjects prepared by the staff, draw preliminary conclusions from the reading, and be ready to ask clarifying questions during board meeting discussions before voting on each agenda item.
Prepare for board meetings by reading all the materials before the meeting. In some cases, the material will contain information and educational terms unfamiliar to you. When this happens, keep a note pad on hand and jot down questions when they come up. Once you've read all the materials contact either the board president or the superintendent to discuss your questions. When topics come up for discussion at the board meeting, jot down additional questions that are not answered to your satisfaction and ask questions before voting. Listen to and get involved in the discussions and keep asking questions until you understand the issue.
Know Your Policy
Review the board policy manual and all the handbooks used in the district. Don’t expect to read everything in one sitting but refer to these as questions or concerns arise. Take notes about particular areas needing clarification or which are of concern to you. Discuss these questions and concerns with the superintendent to get his/her perspective. As board and district operations become more familiar, it may become apparent that some policies need to be changed or clarified. Find out when the board reviews the district policies and what the process is for revisions.
You And The Superintendent
Being able to trust and support the administration is of primary importance for all board members. If the working relationship between the board and the administration is not good, the entire district will suffer and the educational program will not be a priority. If there is a general lack of support of the superintendent, the superintendent deserves fair treatment, honest and open evaluations, and a chance to improve the situation. Without these discussions and an organized method to deal with the problems, board members who want to change administrators and hope that the perfect superintendent will apply and be employed will probably be disappointed. The board, not the individual members, needs to give direction to the administration about what it wants done.
Everyone has personal agendas. However, personal agendas that waste board time and interfere with the district's operation can be a problem. New board members need to be honest about their concerns, but it should not be a surprise if the rest of the board will not support these concerns at the very first meeting. In most cases, new members will find it wise to wait a few months before beginning any campaigns to change things. Board members who are patient, who thoroughly study the issues and who support their arguments with convincing evidence may succeed in turning campaign issues into board issues sometime during their first term.
It's The Law
Conduct legal board meetings. Board members are bound by the Open Meetings Law. It's important to understand the notice requirement, executive sessions, board-member liability and the privacy rights of employees and students. Ask your superintendent or AASB staff if you're not clear on these.
Handle complaints professionally. Be prepared to hear a lot of opinions and problems from the public. Being familiar with board policy and procedure will help to answer specific questions, but many complaints from the public will be difficult to handle. The best advice is to listen and thank the person for calling. Let them know that the matter will be referred to the administration, and encourage them to talk to the superintendent (if it’s a general policy or procedure concern) or to the district employee who can help them with the problem. Resist the urge to promise that something will be done.
You Can Make A Difference
People run for office because they want to make a difference and can become overwhelmed by all the restrictions placed on a school district. Take the time to learn about the district. Be patient, persistent and keep in mind that the public has entrusted you, together with your fellow board members, the responsibility to ensure that each child in your district is served.
Guide for School Board Candidates
As a candidate for your local school board, you have taken a step towards becoming involved in strengthening the quality of life through good schools in your community. You have indicated an interest in serving and devoting the time necessary to meet the challenge of boardsmanship by seeking election to your local school board. This guide will provide you with some basic information about school boards.
Roles and Responsibilities of Board Members
As you consider the prospect of running for your local school board, there are a few things you should know about the responsibilities that role involves.
If you are elected, you and your fellow board members’ actions will have far-reaching results. The policies you set will shape the education of tomorrow’s leaders. The guidelines you create will direct the superintendent in navigating the problems your school district faces daily. Your decisions will affect the families of hundreds of students and employees, now and in the future.
School board authority rests with the board as a whole, not each member individually. School board decisions can only be made by a majority of the members at a public meeting.
From the moment school board members begin service, they are accountable to the public, to the state government, and to the courts.
Broad Functions of a School Board
School Boards create a shared vision for the district, develop a structure to support that vision, establish accountability, and advocate for students and schools.
Vision School board, on behalf of and with extensive participation by the community, creates a shared vision to enhance student achievement.
Structure To achieve its mission the board establishes a structure and creates an environment designed to ensure all students the opportunity to attain their maximum potential through a sound organizational framework.
Accountability Because the board is accountable to the local community, it causes the continuous assessment and reporting of all conditions affecting education.
Advocate The board serves as education’s advocate on behalf of students and their schools in order to advance the community’s vision for its schools, pursue its goals, encourage progress, energize systemic change, and deal with children as whole persons in a diversified society.
What Does a School Board Do?
A board performs its functions through:
Policy Making: A school board sets school district policies. The board hires a superintendent and district staff to put that policy into practice. The superintendent is accountable to the school board for managing the district according to board policies.
The local school board must develop and adopt policy that governs the operation of the schools. This includes acting on the superintendent’s recommendations in such areas as employment of personnel, administration of student services, adoption of educational programs, selection of instructional materials and allocation of funds.
Planning: School boards must provide vital leadership in establishing current and long-range educational plans and programs for school districts. The school board is responsible for providing a financial plan to carry out the educational programs by adopting an annual budget. Working closely with the community and the school administration, the board sets goals and adopts policies on which instructional programs are based.
Professional Performance: One of the critical responsibilities of a school board is to select a superintendent. The school board exercises authority primarily through its superintendent. The board must be kept informed by the superintendent of the needs, conditions, achievements and progress of the school system.
As public employers, the board establishes the policies that govern the recruiting, hiring, employment, supervision, evaluation and dismissal of employees. This is an especially vital role, for the school district is frequently one of the community’s largest employers.
Interpreting Needs: School board members serve as the citizens’ link to the school district and must interpret the school district’s needs, programs and accomplishments for the community and interpret the community’s needs and aspirations to the superintendent and staff.
School boards serve a dual role of representing both the schools and the community. As a public trust, the local school board must look into the community, find out what citizens want and provide clear channels of communication between the community and its schools. Boards need to sense and influence public opinion about the direction and function of their schools.
Needed improvements cannot be made until people are aware of those needs. Problems will not be solved until people become aware of the problems. It is important to discuss openly the strengths and weaknesses of the schools. Since decisions made about the schools can have an impact on the whole community, it is important to involve local citizens.
Board Service is Time and Commitment
School board service can be both rewarding and frustrating. At times board members feel the long hours they spend struggling with complex problems are all in vain. No matter what their decision, there will always be someone who complains.
These frustrations are offset, however, by reports of students going on to achieve further academic or other kinds of success. There is satisfaction in helping provide students with the education they need to live happy and productive lives.
Being a board member you are required to set aside ‘single issues’ and work with the other members of your board to set policies for your schools that are in the best interest of all students, all employees and the entire community.
An article from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) on the roots, growth, and future of schools and school boards.