Role of a School Board Member

What does it mean to be a school board member?

According to the National School Boards Association (NSBA), there are over 90,000 individuals across the United States currently sitting on school boards. School boards are tasked with one of the greatest responsibilities: managing the education of their communities and setting standards and practices designed to help students succeed academically. A school board member takes on this task, working collaboratively with fellow board members to ensure the needs of both the district and community are met.

School board members volunteer their time to serve on a school board. They are elected by fellow community members whose views align with values the community aspires to see reflected in their school district. The size of a school board varies depending on the district, but school boards are typically composed of three to nine members. Each member is elected to serve a term, which can be anywhere from 3 to 5 years. In addition, terms are staggered so all board positions are vacant at different times.

As community leaders, the school board serves as the voice of the community in public education, setting academic achievement standards and developing a curriculum that helps students succeed. The board is accountable for the district’s performance, and constant communication between the board and the community is vital to the district’s success. A school board member should possess specific skills that aid the achievement of this goal. These skills include the ability to effectively communicate, reach a compromise, collaborate with others, problem solve and lead.

How do you become a member of the school board?

The process of running for a school board varies from district to district, but the eligibility requirements are generally the same. School board candidates must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, a qualified voter within the school district, and able to read and write. Candidates are required to reside in their school district continuously for one year, however some city school districts have a different residency requirement. Furthermore, a candidate cannot take office if they’re employed by the same district as the board or if they’re living in the same residence as a family member who’s also on the school board.

Individuals interested in running for a school board position must file a nominating petition. The requirements for filing such a petition differ depending on the type of school district, but it’s common for most school districts to have a board candidate file their nominating petition with the district clerk. The petition must contain valid signatures from at least 25 qualified district voters or 2% of the total number of individuals who voted in the previous election, whichever number is larger. For Guilderland Central School District, 52 signatures from qualified district voters are required. The nominating petitions need to include a candidate’s name and address, the vacant board position for which they’re running for, the name of the incumbent (if applicable), addresses of the individuals who signed the petition, and the length of the term of office for which the candidate is being nominated. The candidate should then file the petition with the district clerk at least 30 days before the election meeting.

Following the filing of the nominating petition, school board candidates begin campaigning. New York State law requires all board of education candidates to disclose their campaign expenses by filing a sworn statement with the district clerk. A total of three different statements must be filed during the election cycle. Expenditures in excess of $500 made by the candidate or on their behalf are required to be filed with the commissioner of education. In contrast, campaign contributions less than $25 can be made without the permission of the candidate if the donor(s) files a statement with both the district clerk and the commissioner of education.

Each year, communities will vote on their school district budgets and elect individuals to their boards of education on the third Tuesday in May. For 2022, budget vote day will be on May 17, with the exception of New York’s “Big 5” school districts: Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers.

What are the next steps after the school board election?

After a school board election, the winning candidate is required by New York State law to complete a mandatory training within the candidate’s first year in office. Candidates will receive training in topics such as fiscal oversight and governance. In New York State, the New York School Boards Association (NYSSBA) provides additional training resources such as online courses and regional academies to help school board members expand their knowledge and professionally grow their skills.



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