6 Questions That Explain What Your Local School Board Is

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The school board.  Every American school district has one.  In fact, school boards are one of the more unique features of American public education.  If you are like most people, you don't fully understand what a school board is and what it does - knowing a little bit about the school board can help parents navigate the school system.  Maybe the school board would be a great place for you to be involved.

 Read on to get the 101 on school boards, using four W's and H format.

What Do School Boards Do?

The school board is the local organization that sets the policies, unique local curriculum, and major personnel decisions.  School district superintendents are often hired by the school boards.  Many school boards are also the main body responsible for hiring school principals, and make the final decisions about hiring teachers.  The school board is also in charge of maintaining school buildings and bargaining with teacher unions about pay, benefits, and work expectations.

Who is on A School Board?

School Boards are made up of local people who have been elected to various leadership positions to be on their school board.  They tend to be reflect their local communities more than other elected bodies, like city or county councils.  According the National School Board Association, 75 percent of school board members have a bachelors degree or higher, consider themselves politically moderate, and have strong desire to improve student success.

 Most school board members are unpaid volunteers.

How Do I Get In Touch With My Local School Board?

Today many school boards try to make themselves easy to reach by informal means.  If you want to speak with the school board, you probably don't have to prepare a formal 3 minute speech and wait to speak at a public school board meeting, although  you do have that option.


Try looking at your local school district website for information about how to contact the school board.  You will probably find email and phone numbers.  You can also check the website or school newsletters for times when school board members will be meeting informally with people to hear community members thoughts on the school system.

School boards also will seek out members for various subcommittees and focus groups over differing issues.  Examples of possible groups include apparent involvement board, curriculum over site groups, and local wellness policy groups. Joining one of these groups can be a great way to shape school policy over a topic you care about, or even to learn more about how the school board works before deciding to run for a board position.

When Do We Choose School Board Leaders?

School board election details vary between different states and local communities.  Most school board elections are held in the fall, on a different date than major elections.  Keeping school board elections separate from other elections is one way communities try to keep school boards from developing a political party system.

 School board members will have terms of at least one year, with many serving two or four year terms.  Some seats will become available on a staggered annual basis, so that the entire school board isn't replaced all at once.

Where do School Boards Meet?

Sometimes they will meet at the main district building, but not always.  Highly formal board meetings, that are conducted by formal rules will need to be held in a place that is open to the community and while giving all board members a chance to sit up in a panel to speak and vote.  Since school board members do a great deal of community outreach, almost any public place in your local community is a possibility for an informal meeting, including local schools, city halls, and libraries.

Why Do We Have School Boards?

The American public school system was originally completely based at the local level.  Individual communities would come together and establish their own schools, choosing what to teach, when to teach it, where and how to manage school buildings and pretty much anything else that goes along with running schools.  

American public schools are still primarily run at the local level.  Decisions about pay, curriculum choices, school calendars, building upkeep are all managed at the local level.

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