Social Engagement: Medium to High
What’s What: If you’re interested in education policy and governance, local school boards are a way to use your knowledge to benefit all students in your community.
Amava Take: Don’t be be afraid to run-for office! There are over 13,000 school districts in the U.S. and most have an elected school board. In California alone, there are over 5,000 school board members. Local districts need dedicated citizens to represent the community and set the vision for local schools. Most positions are volunteer, especially in smaller districts, but some have a salary or stipend.
From the Front Lines:
What kinds of candidates are you looking for to fill these jobs?
Since these positions are publicly elected, anyone who is qualified can run for school board. (See below for specific qualifications). People with a background in education, law or finance can be especially well-qualified to be school board members.
Any tips for first-timers to make it a productive and fulfilling experience?
When faced with a tough decision, be guided by what is best for the students. Also, serving on an elected board is different than other boards. There’s a big learning curve the first year–ask more seasoned board members for advice.
What is the most important job of school board?
Setting policy for the school district and hiring (and firing) the superintendent.
From the Trenches:
What’s the most satisfying part of the job?
Having an idea for a new program to benefit students and working with my fellow board members and our superintendent to bring that idea to fruition.
How would you describe the hard parts?
Getting five people to work together to approve a budget with limited resources. There are always competing priorities such as maintaining reasonable class sizes, giving raises to teachers, and implementing innovative new programs or technology. Also, a lot of late night meetings!
What’s surprised you the most about being on a school board?
How many state and federal rules a school district needs to follow! Also, that I have become good friends with many fellow board members and superintendents I have worked with.
Special Requirements: Each state has its own requirements. Generally you need to be over 18 years old, a resident of the school district, a registered voter and not be disqualified from holding elected office. And you can’t be currently employed by the school district. Retired staff and teachers are usually eligible to serve.
Finding a Position: Call your local school district or look at your county’s election office website to see when the next election is and any specific requirements for your district. The National School Board Association is full of information about running for office and offers a meaty FAQ section. Run For Office has a complete database of the more than 80,000 elective school board positions across 13,090 districts in all 50 states. This article outlines the basics of running and what to expect.