You may know one or more board members in your community personally, at least by name. But did you know that each member represents you and every other citizen in your district, while keeping their focus on what is best for the students of the district? Board members in New Jersey volunteer their time, they are not paid for serving. They participate in state required training and additional professional development and often serve on other county, state and regional educational committees and boards.
What exactly do board members and the board of education do?
It may be easier to define by first stating what they do not do. Boards of education do not:
- Run the schools.
- Settle personal disputes or problems.
- Disclose confidential information.
- Represent only special or favorite groups.
Board members represent all members of the community, from the newborn to the eldest, including all races, religions, sexes, and social statuses. They take action only during publicized meetings of a majority of the board, and their authority does not extend beyond those meetings.
Your local board of education is the governing body of the district’s school system, and has the final authority on:
- Policy for the district, which guides decisions made by the staff and administration.
- Issues concerning the district.
- Legal matters involving the district.
- Appointment of all employees upon recommendation of the chief school administrator.
- Approval of textbooks and curriculum based upon recommendation of the chief school administrator.
- Creation and approval of annual goals for the district.
- Financial responsibility of the district.
- Adoption of budgets and referendums for public vote.
- Adoption of negotiated bargaining agreements
School boards also:
- Create policies and goals within the law and upon professional advisement of the staff, through the superintendent.
- Interview and appoint interim and permanent superintendents, and outside consultants such as attorneys.
- Provide a vision for the district. It is the board’s responsibility to see that the tools and resources needed are supplied for an effective education for all students.
- See that schools are well-run.
Board members have much to keep in mind as they formulate decisions that will impact the schools:
- They are required to complete board member training within one year of being initially elected to office.
- They must work closely with the superintendent to make the best choices possible for all students.
- They should refer personal comments and problems to the appropriate person in the chain of command.
The New Jersey Constitution designated the local Board of Education as the best way to oversee local school systems. A school board that is aware if its well-defined role will be an effective and smoothly run group. A community that is knowledgeable about how the board works will be able to voice its concerns appropriately. An understanding by all results in the best choices for the students and the community.
What is the role of the people with their local Board of Education?
You may sometimes wonder why your local school board does not act upon a certain item. As with other governing bodies, the public is one source of information that can be invaluable to its members. No single person or board can be aware of all events or problems at all times. It is proper for a citizen to bring matters of public concern (not individual grievances) to the attention of the board of education, however, they should first be brought to the attention of the school or district administration.