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What Makes a Great School Board Member?

What makes a school board effective? Learn what qualities to look for in a successful school board member.

By GreatSchools Staff

An effective school board plays an important watchdog role in keeping your local school on track, and setting policies that affect your child and your school. The school board sets the vision and goals for the school district, and holds the district accountable for results. One school board member cannot do the job alone. Effective school board members contribute their unique talents while collaborating and working as a team with other board members.

What Do School Boards Do?

Communities typically elect a school board of three, five or seven trustees to oversee the local school district and make certain the desires of the community are met.

The school board's primary responsibilities are to:

  • Set the vision and goals for the district
  • Adopt policies that give the district direction to set priorities and achieve its goals
  • Hire and evaluate the superintendent
  • Adopt and oversee the annual budget
  • Manage the collective bargaining process for employees of the district

A typical school board meeting will include many business items, such as approving the school calendar, adopting curriculum, overseeing construction, and approving contracts with outside vendors. A successful school board will balance discussion of the seemingly tedious business of running the district while paying close attention to the district's priorities for academic achievement.

School Board Members Who Have Made a Difference

These two school board members, one a leader in a large urban district and the other an integral part of a suburban district board, exemplify how school board members can have an important influence on the direction of their districts.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

02/6/2012:
"Derek King is an outstanding board member on the Victor Valley High School District. I got a chance to talk to him today at a Latina Summit. He gave up his saturday morning to support our young students. He was the only board member to attend. I have heard that he attends most things. The first rule of doing a good job is showing up and Derek King shows up. "
10/13/2011:
"Is it ok for a school board member/parent to volunteer at their school? "
09/26/2011:
"it really helped me "
05/19/2009:
"The job of the school board is to facilitate as an advisory council and to assist the Superintendent in governing the overall affairs of the school district. Each and and every level of their decision making should be child based, child focused and child centered. Anything outside of these areas become egotistic and ego-centered and stray away from their true calling and purpose. The Esquire Abby Phelps"
02/18/2009:
"Never thought about running for any type of office until my kid's school fell into some very serious financial troubles (10 million in the hole). Town is approximately 5,000 in pop. and small enough that rumors and news travel fast. When the state of Texas sends a conservator to fix the problem by firing 200 employees, you know it's time to do something. Superintendent removed with pay, can't afford to buy out contract. Local news pays attention to all the layoffs but never makes any mention of what it does to the kids or the teachers moral, by-the-way no teacher raises for 3 years. I googled 'what makes a good school board member?' and your site popped up. Thank you for making up my mind just need to figure how to run. "
11/5/2008:
"In your opinion is a public school board member, while a member of the school board, sent their oldest child to the public school where that child was valevictorian and their younger child to a parochial school three years later, an effective school board member."
09/30/2008:
"Thank you. I'm running for our local board and I'm preparing for a candidate forum. This site provided much of what I needed to prepare."
04/21/2008:
"Hello, I am considering running for our local school board this year. This is an excellent article that had important insights and added direction for my campaign. Thank you for this website!"
03/11/2008:
"If a person fills out a form in a timely manner to get on the agenda of a school board meeting, can they be denied that right? Our school has a policy that the administration has the right to not allow people a place on the agenda. Several teachers and patrons have been denied this right. Is this legal? Doesn't seem fair."
07/5/2007:
"I thought this was extremely helpful. I am a school board member and it helps to have parameters to guide your progress by. "
01/4/2005:
"I am running for the school board of Los Banos CA. I have foud this article very informing. In my own case I have a vision that our graduates need enhanced life skills. While we as parents want every child to be a college graduate it is not always the case. I believe we as a nation down through the individual school districts focus to much on assessment, and not enough on achievement. My goal will be incorporate life skills back into education as a meaningful option. We must remember that being a carpenter can lead to great things. Health Happiness & Long Life"
01/4/2005:
"I found this article to be very true and reinforces what we should already know but should never forget.I am a member of a 5 member school board in a very small suburban district on LI, NY. I forwarded this article to my collegues. We thank you for the wealth of information included here. This is not the first time we have benefited from the information on your site. Please keep this going!"
01/4/2005:
"Thank you very much for this article. I appreciate the information at this critical time."
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