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Understanding Your School Board

Are local school boards needed?

The U.S. Supreme Court has said education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Our system of local school districts and boards of education epitomizes representative and participatory government - citizens elected from their community making decisions about educational programs based on community needs, values, and expectations. Local school boards also allow for community participation in that decision-making process. School boards not only represent the public, but also translate the needs of students into policies, plans, and goals that will be supported by the community.         

 

Can citizens attend and participate in school board meetings?

School boards must be in compiance with the Texas Open Meetings Act and make public records available pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act and Texas Public Information Act. Citizens are welcome at all school board meeting except a few legally specific circumstances calling for closed meetings. Many school boards allow citizen participation and have policies communicating how and when citizens contribute their input. Generally, boards set aside 20 to 30 minutes for public participation and limit each speaker to 5 minutes. This permits the citizens to give input while allowing adequate time for important board business.         

 

How are school board members elected?

School district trustees are elected by popular vote. Terms of office may vary depending on the legal characteristics of the district. Generally, school board members serve three-year staggered terms so that the entire board is not up for election at the same time.

 

When are school board members elected?

School board elections may only be held on either of the following dates: 1) First Saturday in May 2) First Tuesday after the first Monday in November of odd numbered years. Special elections also may be held on the third Saturday in January or the second Saturday in August. Every school has, by policy, selected on of these dates.

 

Who is eligible to serve as a school board member?

To be eligible for election, a local school board candidate must be 1) a qualified and registered voter, 2) a resident of the district for at least six months before the filing deadline, and 3) a resident of the state for 12 months before the deadline.         

How do school boards make decisions?

A school board is a governmental body, so it can only take action by a majority vote at at legally called public meeting. The individual board member's major responsibility is to study issues facing the district, evaluate needs and resources, and , after due consideration, vote in the best interest of all students at such a meeting. A board member who attempts - without authorization - to speak for the whole board, direct members of staff, or make other individual decisions is exceeding his or her authority.                 

 

Is special training required for school board members?

School board members are required by Texas law and Commissioner of Education rule to participate in three types of continuing education: an orientation to local district policy and to the laws affecting public education in Texas; an annual team building activity, taken in conjunction with the rest of the board and the superintendent; and a specified number of hours each year in areas of special need. Board members determine needs with their board annually by reviewing the Framework for School Board Development, a document that outlines the tasks an effective board performs in its governing capacity. Continuing education courses that address these needs are available through a variety of sources.

 

What are the responsibilities of the school board?

To ensure creation of a vision and goals for the district and evaluate district sucess. To adopt policies that guide actions. To hire a superintendent to serve as administrator of the district and evaluate the superintendent's progress. To approve an annual budget consistent with the district vision. To communicate the district's vision and success to the community.         

What is the primary function of the school board?

School board members are guardians of the public trust and, through the policies they make, are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of local public education. The board serves as the advocate for educational excellence of the community's youth and puts those interests first. The policies school boards make dictate the standards and philosophy by which schools are run and the criteria used to judge whether they are being run well. This responsibility often entails difficult choices, self-sacrifice, and exposure to public critisism. However, it aso brings a great dial of personal satisfaction in sharing with parents, staff, and students their academic successes. This crucial responsibility and the closeness of trustees to the voters make the local school board the purest example of democracy our society presents.

 

Who is responsible for public education in Texas?

The Commissioner of Education, the State Board of Education, and the Texas Education Agency(TEA)guide and monitor public educatuion in Texas. The State Board provides leadership and state level administration, and the Commissioner and TEA staff implement education policy as prescribed by law. Texas has delegated much of the responsibility for education to the local school board. Locally elected school boards are political subdivisions carrying out a state function. Despite somewhat prescriptive state and federal law and State Board of Education or Commisioner's rule, local school districts have sufficient latitude in governing the schools.