The word “public” in public school refers to the fact that it is the citizens themselves who control the public schools. In most states, they do this in part by electing a school board of – depending on the size and configuration of the district – three, five or seven members who must be residents of the school district.
The most important thing a school board does is to establish a vision for the community’s schools that reflects a consensus of the board, community and district staff. The school board has a wide variety of additional responsibilities, such as adopting a balanced annual budget and issuing interim financial reports, adopting the school calendar, negotiating contracts with employee unions, approving curriculum materials and closing or constructing schools.
What philosophy of education do we want our local schools to have? What should our students know and be able to do when they graduate? How can schools best educate students who come from diverse backgrounds? These are some of the types of questions that a school board must ponder when trying to establish a vision.
Turning Vision Into Practice
Whatever the vision may be, it’s up to the school superintendent to implement it. This is why one of the board’s most crucial decisions is the hiring and firing of the superintendent. The board also approves the superintendent’s personnel recommendations.
School board meetings must be open to the public with the agenda publicly posted in advance. You can learn a lot about your district’s policies and challenges by attending a meeting. In most cases, board meetings are also structured to give you a chance to express your opinions to the board and the community.