How to Become a School Board Member

Teacher smiling in classroom
Teacher smiling in classroom. Hill Street Studios/Getty Images

The school board can be considered as the governing body of a school district. They are the only elected officials within an individual school district that have a say in the daily operations of that school district. A district is only as good as each individual board member that makes up the entirety of the board. Becoming a school board member is an investment that should not be taken lightly and is not for everyone. You must be willing to listen to and work with others as well as an adept and active problem solver.

Boards that bond together and see eye to eye on most issues usually oversee an effective school district. Boards that are split and feud often have disarray and turmoil which ultimately undermines the mission of any school. A board is the decision-making force behind the school. Their decisions do matter, and there is a definite trickle-down effect. Poor decisions can lead to ineffectiveness, but good decisions will improve the overall quality of the school.

Qualifications Needed to Run for School Board

There are five common qualifications that most states have in order to be eligible to be a candidate in a school board election. Those include:

  1. A school board candidate must be a registered voter.
  2. A school board candidate must be a resident of the district you are running in.
  3. A school board candidate must have been awarded a minimum of a high school diploma or a certificate of high school equivalency.
  4. A school board candidate cannot have been convicted of a felony.
  5. A school board candidate cannot be a current employee of the district and/or be related to a current employee in that district.

Although these are the most common qualifications necessary to run for school board, it does vary from state to state. It is best to check with your local election board for a more detailed list of required qualifications.

Reasons to Become a School Board Member

Becoming a school board member is a serious commitment. It takes quite a bit of time and dedication to be an effective school board member. Unfortunately, not every person who runs for a school board election is doing it for the right reasons. Each individual that chooses to be a candidate in a school board election does so for their own personal reasons. Some of the reasons include:

  1. A candidate may run for school board membership because they have a child in the district and want to have a direct impact on their education.
  2. A candidate may run for school board membership because they love politics and want to be an active participant in the political aspects of the school district.
  3. A candidate may run for school board membership because they want to serve and support the district.
  4. A candidate may run for school board membership because they believe they can make a difference in the overall quality of education that the school is providing.
  5. A candidate may run for school board membership because they have a personal vendetta against a teacher/coach/administrator and want to get rid of them.

Composition of the School Board

A school board is made up of 3, 5, or 7 members depending on the size and configuration of that district. Each position is an elected position and terms are typically either four or six years. Regular meetings are held once a month, typically at the same time each month (such as the second Monday of each month).

A school board typically is made up of a president, vice-president, and secretary. The positions are nominated and chosen by the board members themselves. Officer positions are typically chosen once a year.

Duties of the School Board

A school board is designed as the principle democratic body that represents local citizens on education and school-related issues. Being a school board member isn’t easy. Board members have to stay up-to-date on current educational issues, must be able to understand education jargon, and have to listen to parents and other community members who want to pitch their idea on how to improve the district. The role of the board of education plays in a school district is vast. Some of their duties include:

  1. The board of education is responsible for hiring/evaluating/terminating the district superintendent. This is probably the most important duty of the board of education. The district’s superintendent is the face of the district and is ultimately responsible for managing the daily operations of the school district. Every district needs a superintendent who is trustworthy and who has a good relationship with their board members. When a superintendent and school board are not on the same page mass chaos can ensue.
  2. The board of education develops policy and direction for the school district.
  3. The board of education prioritizes and approves the budget for the school district.
  4. The board of education has the final say on hiring school personnel and/or terminating a current employee in the school district.
  5. The board of education establishes the vision that reflects the overall goals of the community, staff, and the board.
  6. The board of education makes decisions on school expansion or closure.
  7. The board of education manages the collective bargaining process for the district’s employees.
  1. The board of education approves many components of the district’s daily operations including the school calendar, approving contracts with outside vendors, adopting curriculum, etc.

The duties of a board of education are much more comprehensive than those listed above. Board members put in a lot of time in what essentially amounts to a volunteer position. Good board members are invaluable to a school district’s development and success.  The most effective school boards are arguably those who have a direct impact on nearly every facet of the school but do so in obscurity rather than the limelight.