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What does a school board do?

What is the school board and what does it do?

The following text is an excerpt from “What It Takes To Lead: The role and function of California’s school boards.” The full text is available on the California School Board Association website. You can access both by clicking on the links below:

“What It Takes To Lead: The role and function of California’s school boards”

California School Board Association

What is the school board’s role and what are its responsibilities?

It’s easy to say that school boards “govern” their schools. But what does that mean in everyday practice? The role of the board is to be responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of its community.

The board has five major governing responsibilities:

1. Setting the direction for public schools in the community

Of all the responsibilities of governing boards, none is more central to the purpose of local governance than ensuring that a long-term vision is established for the school system. The vision reflects the consensus of the entire board, the superintendent and district staff, and the community as to what the students need in order to achieve their highest potential. The vision should set a clear direction for the school district/COE, driving every aspect of the district’s/COE’s program.

2. Establishing an effective and efficient structure

The board is responsible for establishing and maintaining an organizational structure that supports the district’s/ COE’s vision and empowers the professional staff. Although the board doesn’t implement policies or programs, the board is responsible for:

  • employing the superintendent and setting policy for hiring other personnel*;
  • overseeing the development and adoption of bylaws and policies;
  • setting a direction for and approving adoption of the curriculum;
  • establishing budget priorities*, adopting the budget and Local Control and Accountability Plan, and overseeing facilities issues*; and
  • providing direction for and adopting collective bargaining agreements*.

3. Providing support

Through its behavior and actions, the board has a responsibility to support the superintendent and staff as they implement the established vision. This involves:

  • acting with a professional demeanor that models the district’s/COE’s beliefs and vision;
  • making decisions and providing resources that support mutually agreed upon priorities and goals;
  • upholding district/COE bylaws and policies the board has approved;
  • ensuring a positive personnel climate exists*; and
  • being knowledgeable enough about district/COE efforts to explain them to the public.

4. Ensuring accountability to the public

The board represents the community and is accountable to the public for the performance of the schools in the community. The board establishes systems and processes to monitor results, evaluates the school system’s progress toward accomplishing the district’s vision and communicates that progress to the local community.

In order to ensure personnel, program and fiscal accountability, the board is responsible for:

  • evaluating the superintendent and setting policy for the evaluation of other personnel*;
  • monitoring, reviewing and revising policies;
  • serving as a judicial and appeals body;
  • monitoring student achievement and program effectiveness and requiring program changes as indicated;
  • monitoring and adjusting district finances*;
  • monitoring the collective bargaining process*; and
  • evaluating its own effectiveness through board self- evaluation.

5. Demonstrating community leadership

As the only locally elected officials chosen solely to represent the interests of students, board members have a responsibility to speak out on behalf of children. Board members are advocates for students, the district’s/COE’s educational programs and public education. They build support within their communities and at the state and national levels.

The board has a responsibility to involve the community in appropriate, meaningful ways and to communicate clear information to the community about district/COE policies, educational programs, fiscal condition and progress on goals. Governing boards must also ensure that the community and stakeholders have engaged in the LCAP development process. These five responsibilities are so fundamental to a school system’s accountability to the public in our democratic society that they can only be performed by an elected governing body. Board members fulfill these roles by working together as a governance team with the superintendent to make decisions that will best serve all the students in the community.


* Area where county board responsibilities may differ from school board responsibilities.

Committee to Elect
Olaina Anderson for School Board 2018
FPPC #1405948
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