How To Communicate With The School Board

Your school board needs to hear from you!
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Your school board is the body that makes the majority of decisions about your local schools.  The school board makes decisions about the budget, hiring personnel, curriculum, and so much more.  If you have been staying abreast of what the school board has been up to, you may have some input you would like to share.  

This is a great thing to do - as our republic based form of government relies on elected officials who listen to the general public and then make decisions.

 When community members come and share their thoughts about what matters in their local schools, then the school board can use that information to make the best-informed decisions for the local schools.

The first thing to do is find out the actual contact information for your school board.  You will want to find names and school board positions, e-mail or postal mail addresses, and perhaps when the public can come and comment to the school board.

E-mail or Paper Letter To The School Board?

E-mailing the school board members can be a good option for people who may not be able to make it it to a school board meeting.  Often, emails can come across as being less strongly felt than someone coming to speak at a school board meeting.  If you are expressing an opinion on a highly charged issue that many people are taking sides on, your email could get lost in an overfilled inbox.  

Advantages of sending emails to board members include the convenience of being able to send a message from anywhere at anytime, as long as there is internet access.

 If you want to make sure that the community at large is aware of what you had to say, you can cc your email to the local letters to the editor of the newspaper or other public forum.

Handwritten or typed letters were once seen as expressing a stronger opinion than easy to send emails.  Since electronic communications have become more the norm in the last few decades, letters run the risk of being seen as quaint.

 You may want to ask around and see how email is viewed locally compared to a physical letter.  You can still cc a copy of the letter to the local newspaper to add emphasis to your statement.

Thoughts on Writing Your Letter

School board members are busy and need to be able to quickly read through the correspondence they receive.  You will want to limit your letter to one page, and make sure it explains your position very succinctly.  Since your letter will likely be related to some policy concern, a good way to organize your letter is as follows:

  • Paragraph 1: Explain who you are and how you are connected to the schools or school district.  In the last sentence, explain what issue you are writing about. Example:  My name is Jane Smith.  My three children attend schools in County School District.  I own a home in this community and care about my children's education.  I am writing in support of fixing the leaky, crumbling roof of the elementary school.
  • Paragraph 2: Explain the results and/or benefits that will happen by supporting your position.  Example: Fixing the leaky roof of the elementary school will prevent further damage to the school, which could lead to more expensive repairs that would need to be paid by taxpayer dollars.  Fixing the roof now will also stop the leaking into classrooms which leads to dripping in classrooms which disrupts student learning and creates more work for janitorial staff.  The leaks have also damaged school furniture and carpet. Fixing the roof now will stop further damage.
  • Paragraph 3 (optional)  This is where you quickly can address any opposition, or counter arguments that may exist.  Example: Some people are saying that fixing the roof costs too much and is an unnecessary expense for our school district.  The roof is already in serious disrepair and will cost even more to repair the longer the damage goes unfixed.
  • Final paragraph  Restate what you are asking for, then thank the board member for reading your letter.  Example:  In summary, I believe it is critical that the school board pass the resolution to repair the elementary school roof.  Thank you for considering my thoughts on this important matter.
  • Sign the letter with your first and last name.  Include your contact information, such as your return address, below your name if you hope to receive a response.

Speaking To The School Board

If you choose to speak to the board, known as giving public testimony, you will need to plan out what you want to say.  Most school board meeting rule limit public speakers to 1 or 2 minutes of time to speak. This is to make sure that everyone who wants to speak will get a chance to do so without dragging meetings out for days.  One or two minutes may not sound like a lot of time, but if you carefully plan what you say, you should be able to express your idea.  Check the school district website for guidelines on giving testimony at school board meetings.  You may have to arrive early and place your name on a sign-up sheet to be included in the agenda. 

If you need an outline for preparing your speech, you can use the same format as the letter example above.  Begin by giving your name and the school where your children attend or the way you are connected to the school district.  Then explain your concern or position and why you feel the way you do.  Practice what you want to say a few times so you will be ready for this public speaking moment.  You can time yourself to make sure you stay in the allotted time.

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