What To Look For In A School Board Candidate

Exercise your voting right for school board. JGI/Jamie Grill va Getty Images

If you are getting more involved with your child's school, you have probably come to realize that the school board is the major shaping force for schools in your local community.  You now know how important it is to get good people on the school board, so the best decisions can be made.  But how do you evaluate a school board candidate?  

Although school board members are usually elected in local elections, there is a much smaller emphasis on party stance and strict labels like conservative/liberal/green/progressive/traditional.

 The roles of the school board include personnel, budgeting and building maintenance for the school district, all with an eye towards creating the highest quality education and successful students possible with the resources the community provides.  

Here are some of the factors to consider when voting for school board members:

 They Know The Community  

The backbone structure of the American public school system is in its local up to federal style of governing.  Your local school board makes numerous decisions which are all very locally concerned. How well does the candidate know local community?  Are they knowledgeable about local economics and opportunities and the role that will play in the lives of today's young people?  Do they understand the values of the community and how that affects schools?  

A Team Player Who Gets Along Well With Others

Schools are the places we send out children to each day.

 The strong desire and love of parents for their children combines with the communities hopes for the future means that sometimes school policy issues can become quite heated.  Is the candidate someone who can work through emotional issues without resorting to immature behavior?  Can they maintain or bring people back to a topic of focus when emotions start to rise?

They Respect Other Viewpoints

American public schools are open and accessible to all young people in a community, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religious viewpoints, or financial situation.  There are few places in society that have such a rich and diverse environment.  School board members must be able to represent all of these students and their families.  This means that good school board candidates are sensitive to the needs of different groups in the community, and are able to listen to viewpoints different from their own.

They Are Willing And Able To Put In The Time For The Board

From setting agendas to public meetings to informal meetings with local community members, serving on the school board takes time.  Most school board members are volunteer only, meaning they must work full time aside from their roles on the school board. How does the candidate plan to balance their current lives with the responsibilities of being a board member?

They Have A Positive Reason For Wanting To Be On The School Board

Does the candidate want to support the schools their own children attend?

 Does educational policy and the effects on the local community inspire them to become leaders?  Are they retired educators who want to use their experience to better the system?  These are all positive reasons for someone to become a school board member.  These reasons show that the candidate wants to be a part of a team that creates a great experience for school students.

Negative reasons that smack of personal backlash or center around only a few policies that the candidate is strongly against are not a sign of a good potential school board candidate.  Being on the board itself means that the members decide and work on a wide variety of issues, not just a few areas needing change.  A negative outlook could also be an indication of someone who is angry and likely to vent problems rather than fixing them.  

Sometimes school boards really do make mistakes and need new members to create a better board.    Just listen carefully to candidates who campaign for change based on what they see as mistakes by the current school board.  Does this candidate have plans to bring the board into being a positive working team who address a whole range of issues?  Which brings me to the next factor...

They Understand The Local School Board

Does the candidate know what issues the local school board is facing? Do they understand what responsibilities the school board actually has?  If elected, this candidate will be a new team player on the school board.  Most school board members are replaced a few positions at a time, rather than an entire new school board elected each election cycle.  Again, how will this person be a team player and do they understand the role of the school board and the position they are running for?

You Like Their Thoughts On Important School Issues

While the two party system may not be a strong presence on school boards, that doesn't mean that there are not issues that voters take sides on in education.  I am sure you have some issues that you feel strongly about.  it is absolutely fair to want to know where the school board candidate stands on these issues.  If you are concerned about the quality and accessibility of school lunches, you will want to know what the candidate feels about school lunches.  If you are concerned about the local implementation of Common Core Standards in your community, finding out what approach a candidate takes is an important piece of the voting decision.  

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