Education & Government
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The Diligent team
GRC trends and insights

Roles and responsibilities of school board directors

March 5, 2022
0 min read
Person considers the roles and responsibilities of school board directors ahead of starting her new role in the baord

In this article, you will learn:

  • What school boards do - and do not do
  • What is typically expected of individual school board members
  • The board's role in supporting district growth and success

You got elected to the school board. Congratulations! You'd be forgiven if you secretly wondered: 'Now what? What does the school board actually do? What does each member do?' According to Arizona's District 79, 'School board members are responsible for broad, futuristic thinking, minute analysis and decisive action in all areas that affect students and staff in their schools.' School boards play a distinct role and assume specific responsibilities in relation to the other stakeholders in the shared quest for educational attainment.

What school boards do

Broadly speaking, school boards promote excellence in district schools as leaders within the community. The state confers on school boards powers that are predominantly legislative; the school board sets rules that the superintendent executes. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) concurs, stressing also the centrality of active collaboration: 'The most important responsibility of school boards is to work with their communities to improve student achievement in their local public schools .... In compliance with state and federal laws, school boards establish policies and regulations by which their local schools are governed.'

'Work with their communities' ...'establish policies and regulations.' That is speaking broadly, indeed. Perhaps you really wanted to know what the school board to which you've been elected might do, say, tomorrow or next month. Specifically. The Kentucky School Board Association provides a list of 37 particular tasks that a school board performs as a team. Their 'School Board Member Job Description' reads as follows:

Build school district leadership

  • Approve strategic plan
  • Approve district improvement plan
  • Determine impact on student achievement
  • Set data-driven expectations and goals
  • Hire a superintendent
  • Appoint a board secretary, treasurer and board attorney
  • Conduct team evaluation of the superintendent
  • Meet with SBDM (school-based decision-making) councils
  • Monitor for district accountability

Provide fiscal oversight

  • Adopt annual budget
  • Determine impact on student achievement
  • Allocate resources to meet student needs
  • Take necessary action to levy needed taxes
  • Review district expenditures and variances
  • Authorize payments
  • Approve annual auditor report
  • Approve contracts
  • Approve facility plans
  • Establish schools, acquire sites and erect buildings
  • Manage all funds and property

Manage district policies

  • Make appropriate rules, regulations and bylaws
  • Review/revise policy
  • Approve evaluation systems
  • Set salary schedules
  • Approve job descriptions
  • Grant employee leaves of absence
  • Provide student support services
  • Adopt student behavior and discipline code
  • Determine graduation requirements
  • Set school year calendar
  • Hold due-process hearings to determine student expulsion

Advocate for public education

  • Participate in community-wide school/district events
  • Promote high levels of student achievement
  • Listen and respond to citizen inquiries
  • Recognize staff and student success
  • Cultivate partnerships in the community
  • Engage the community in school/district initiatives

To this exhaustive list from Kentucky, sources from other states add only that their school boards manage the collective bargaining process. So, as for tomorrow or next month, your school board could be convening constituents for input on a future student awards ceremony, say, or voting on an annual budget, soliciting bids from builders or interviewing candidates for superintendent.

What school boards must not do

School boards do not implement the policies that they establish. That is the superintendent's job. Nor do they oversee operations on a daily basis; professional managers do that. Nor do they provide performance reviews for staff; the board hires and evaluates the superintendent, who, in turn, hires all of the faculty and staff.

What individual school board members do

While board meetings often draw the spotlight, most of the work of the board members takes place between meetings. First and foremost, each school board member must be a good member of the team, doing a fair share of the work, coming prepared to school board meetings and supporting board policies. With that said, the actual jobs school board members perform are varied. They will:

  • Take an oath of office
  • Speak up on behalf of public education
  • Study issues and regulations
  • Attend board work sessions and retreats
  • Participate in professional development
  • Take part in periodic review of goals and policies
  • Make sure goals and policies abide by all relevant laws and regulations (e.g., ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and state sunshine laws)
  • Pursue state and federal support for the district
  • Provide input to long-term plans
  • Participate in board self-evaluations
  • Listen to concerned constituents and direct them to resources that can resolve their issues
  • Communicate with the public (e.g., study circles, focus groups, polling)
  • Meet with particular groups ' e.g., with parents or taxpayers ' to discuss a specific issue
  • Continue to educate themselves through workshops and seminars on issues relevant to the board
  • Contribute to board deliberations and vote their conscience
  • After a vote, promote the decision of the board

What an individual school board member must not do

New school board members, in particular, should remind themselves that some acts are off-limits. No member of the school board has authority over school staff or anybody else participating in the district's administrative processes. Finally, no school board member can publicly state his own views as if they represented those of the school board.

What do school boards do? They make goals, determine policies, hire a superintendent and set budgets, a mission they fulfill through a broad array of duties. Each school board member plays his or her part as a team member, an advocate for public education and a liaison to the public. When a school board achieves mastery in its many responsibilities, chances increase that someone else will achieve mastery: for instance, a child in the district whose mind is awakened in an atmosphere of excellence and opportunity then another. And another....

At Diligent, we build solutions to support school districts and to help them better serve their communities. Diligent Community is designed with the features boards and board members need to provide effective leadership supported by technology. Let us know how we can help you.


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