Thursday, June 11, 2015

Role of the Local School Board


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 fulfills this role by 
performing five major responsibilities: 

1. Setting the direction for the community’s
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, driving
every aspect of the district’s program.

2. Establishing an effective and efficient 
structure for the school district 
The board is responsible for establishing and
maintaining an organizational structure that
supports the district’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 of and
adopting policies;
• setting a direction for and adopting the
establishing budget priorities, adopting 
the budget and overseeing facilities 
• 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 carry out the
direction of the board. This involves:

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

4. Ensuring accountability to the public 

As community representatives, the board is
accountable to the public for the performance
of the community’s schools. 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
• 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. Acting as community leaders 

The board has a responsibility to involve the 
community in appropriate, meaningful ways 
and to communicate clear information to the 
community about district policies, educational 
programs, fiscal condition and progress on 
goals. As the only locally elected officials
chosen solely to represent the interests of
schoolchildren, board members also have a
responsibility to speak out on behalf of those
children. Board members are advocates for
students, the districts’ educational programs
and public education. They build support
within their communities and at the state and
national levels.

These five responsibilities represent the 
functions that are so fundamental to a school 
system’s accountability to the public that, in our 
democratic society, they can only be performed 
by an elected governing body. Authority for 
these roles is granted to the board as a whole. 
Therefore, 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.

The California School Boards Association offers
a variety of resources that provide further
information about these critical roles.

California School Boards Association
3100 Beacon Blvd.  |  West Sacramento, CA 95691
800.266.3382  |  Fax 916.371.3407  |
© 2007 CSBA

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