For many parents of public school students, school boards may appear to focus most of their energy on district-wide issues as opposed to what happens on a school site. This is true; school boards spend a significant amount of time focusing on district-wide concerns. However, don’t let that fool you, school board members care a lot about what happens in the classroom and on a school site because that helps us better understand how we think about district-wide policies.
School boards are responsible for reviewing, creating, and adopting district-wide policies in all areas related to schools: curriculum, budget, attendance, school safety, facilities, teacher training, etc. In a typical week we visit sites, meet with and respond to constituents, meet with the superintendent, present at community meetings, and of course, thoroughly review and prepare for school board meetings. It is a big responsibility. According to EdData (http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/), there are nearly 1,000 elected school boards in the state of California, that serve over six million students at about 9,900 schools.
A fun fact, school board members don’t report to the superintendent. A superintendent of city schools applies for the position and is hired by the local school board. As such, a school board is only responsible for hiring (and on tough occasions letting go of) one position in the district, the superintendent. A superintendent reports to each member of a school board, which can make it a pretty challenging job. Imagine, having five to seven direct supervisors, which is the number of school board members on most school boards (they can range from five to nine depending on the district). There are some county superintendent positions that are elected positions and have a different reporting structure. At the end of the day, school board members keep a superintendent accountable and school board members are then accountable to the public.
The next time you vote, make sure you go through your ballot and vote for a school board member who you feel is ready to take on the charge and lead the district in the right direction. Remember- it is not easy work but very important work that shapes the quality of education for children.
- Monique Limon is the current President of the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education. She grew up in Santa Barbara, California. Monique graduated from Cal Berkeley in 2001. While attending Berkeley she joined Hermanas Unidas in 1997 and was the one who originated the infamous "H-a-U know" cheer. Her guilty pleasure on television is novelas!