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:

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.

Electing Effective School Board Members

How can you be sure that the education in your local public schools meets your expectations? A good place to start is by electing effective school board members.

When deciding which candidate to support and vote for, you'll want to attend community candidate forums and ask hard questions. Former, Charlotte Mecklenburg, North Carolina, school board member Arthur Griffin suggests asking the following questions:

For incumbents:

For challengers and incumbents:

You'll also want to find out if the candidate has good analytical, leadership and collaborative skills to move the district forward. A good candidate does not have a single-issue focus but rather is interested in the success of all students in the district.

Deciding To Run for the School Board

If you have sound judgment, an even temper, a willingness to collaborate and a sincere interest in public education in your community, you might consider running for your local school board. You will need to be 18 years of age, a registered voter, a resident of your district and eligible under the state constitution to run for office.

If mounting your own campaign seems daunting but you are concerned about who is on the board, consider gathering a group of concerned citizens together to seek and support a candidate or candidates who share your vision for the district.

Most importantly, be sure to educate yourself about the issues and encourage others in your community to do the same. And don't forget to vote!

Signs of an Effective School Board Member

Here are signs of a school board member focused on moving the school district forward and educating all students to meet high standards:

Signs of an Ineffective School Board Member

If you notice any of the following signs, it's time to find some new candidates to run for your local board: