Board Member Recruitment & Running for School Board

School Board Candidate Information

Local school boards are a uniquely American institution and are at the heart of this country’s public education system. A board’s existence is based on the belief that lay control of public education makes schools flexible and responsive to the needs of the local community.

What Does a School Board Member Do?

The broadest definition of a school board’s role is that it acts as the governance team for the school district. It is important that the board serves as a positive and responsible liaison between the school district and the community.

If you are elected, you and your fellow board members’ actions will have far-reaching results. The policies the Board sets will shape the education of tomorrow’s leaders. The guidelines the Board creates 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.

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 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 to govern 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.


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 to 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.

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, all while adhering to a high standard of conduct and ethics.


The School board, on behalf of and with extensive participation by the community, creates a shared vision to enhance student achievement. After setting the vision and mission for the district, the School Board works collaboratively to establish strategic goals to move the organization toward the community’s vision for its schools.


To achieve its mission, the Board establishes a structure and creates an environment designed to ensure all students have the opportunity to attain their maximum potential through a sound organizational framework. The School Board does this through Board policies and goals.


Because the Board is accountable to the local community, it causes the continuous assessment and reporting of all conditions affecting education. As the community’s representative in the local schools, the Board is responsible for ensuring the schools are well run, that resources are used wisely, and that high standards for academic performance are set. The Board as a whole should monitor performance to meet established goals: academic, financial, and operational.


One of the Board’s most important roles is to be the ambassador for public education in the community. 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. Together, the Board should demonstrate an atmosphere of collaboration and respect, which is the most conducive environment for providing an excellent education for every student every day. As individuals, each Board member can help communicate the ways their local schools are supporting student educational needs, parent and community aspirations, and state and federal standards. 

Conduct – Ethics

The Board and its individual members conduct District business in a fair, respectful, and responsible manner that reflects service to the community on behalf of students. A code of ethics for Board members is included in the board bylaws adopted by most school boards for their districts. It is incumbent on individual board members to follow it.

The Association of Alaska School Boards has developed a framework around these broad functions of a school board, tied to the school board’s purposes and student achievement. In order to continue the great tradition of being able to provide a quality education governed by locally elected officials, collectively, School Boards and School Board members must establish the public’s confidence in the School Board’s ability to oversee the system. 

What School Board Members and Boards DON’T Do

School board members do not:

  • Implement policy
    • The School Board MAKES policy, and the Superintendent carries it out
  • Manage the day-to-day operations of the school district
    • The School Board sees that the district is managed by professionals
  • Evaluate Staff other than the Superintendent
  • Become involved in employment interviews other than those for the Superintendent

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Running

If you’re considering running for your local school board, there are a lot of things to think about.

You don’t need a background in local government, public education, or public policy to run for the school board. Your children don’t have to attend a school in the district either. But you should be able to answer a few questions for yourself.

Why am I running for my local school board?


It’s best to start at the basics and determine what’s motivating you. Answering this question will help you to determine:

  • What your focus might be when campaigning
  • If running for the school board is even the right step for you at this time

Is there a specific issue you want to change in your school district? Or do you want to improve the overall quality of your district?

  • Perhaps you’re thinking about running for the board because you want to “get rid of a coach.”
  • Maybe you want to “make sure the principal is held accountable.”
  • Perhaps you think the state has overstepped its bounds on school accountability.

Reasons like these don’t line up well with the work you would do as a school board member, and you might find it unfulfilling. Understand exactly what the roles and responsibilities of the school board are before taking the plunge.  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.

Remember: The school board is responsible for making decisions that will affect all students in the district.

Can I make the time commitment to RUN for the school board?


Campaigning takes time. How much time you commit varies depending on a lot of factors, from the size of the district to how many candidates are running for a seat.

At a minimum, launching a campaign for the school board requires learning the basic ins and outs of running a legal and ethical campaign for office.  You’ll want to make sure you have information on:

  • Campaign finance
  • Reporting Requirements
  • Election Advertising Guidelines

Your local municipal, borough, or the Division of Elections office should be able to help you in providing information on this. 

Tips for ethical campaigning for the School Board:

  • Focus attention on issues and avoid attacking or finding fault in opponents and district employees
  • Get familiar with the specific issues in your district
  • Always share accurate information during your campaign
  • Keep your focus on what you would like to see happen in your district
  • Avoid making promises that you as an individual cannot keep without board support

Running an ethical campaign demonstrates your leadership to the community. It helps you establish a positive foundation for working with the board and administrators if you do get elected.

Can I make the time commitment to SERVE on the school board?


Before you run, you’ll want to know what it takes to be a successful board member. Election to the board comes with a whole new time commitment.  You’ll be spending time on:

Nobody is born knowing how to be a board member. You need training. Most School Boards in Alaska, in the district’s Board Bylaws, encourage Board Members to seek school board-specific professional development regularly!  

The preparation and getting up to speed are a big part of the first year on the board. During your first year of board service, you’ll want to learn about:

  • District priorities
  • The state accountability system
  • District budgeting
  • The difference between open and closed meetings
  • And so much more

If you’re elected, the Association of Alaska School Boards offers a variety of training opportunities throughout the year held around the state, in your district, and even online with the First-Term Board Member webinar series.

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.

What knowledge and skills do I bring to the School Board?


It is useful to consider what you’ll bring to the table that can benefit your local board. Take an honest assessment of the knowledge and skills you have that could be an asset to your board.

As a school board member, you’ll need to:

  • Attend meetings regularly
  • Learn about new and sometimes complex issues
  • Interact with a variety of community members
  • Make decisions on issues that, at times, can be difficult

There’s no one type of person or background that makes for a good school board member, but all good school board members need to:

  • Work as a team to create a vision for the district, and set goals to achieve the vision
  • Understand finances and budgets, and regularly monitor the fiscal health of the district
  • Focus on the true bottom line: student achievement
  • Implement policies to ensure success for all students
  • Inform the public regularly on the district’s progress and challenges
  • Collaborate with others and be respectful of the full leadership team
  • Advocate for the value of a strong public education system at every chance and at every level of government

While you are at it, think of some of your shortcomings that, if left unaddressed, could hinder your efforts to be an effective board member. Knowing your opportunities for growth is just as important as knowing your strengths.

Serving as a board member can be challenging. But making decisions to benefit your students and community can be very gratifying.