The School Board and Your PTA
As a parent teacher group leader dealing with the day-to-day of the student experience, or even the month-to-month event schedule, sometimes it seems that the school board’s high level decisions are not impactful to our daily lives. But because as a leader you often field questions from parents about why a certain decision is made, or you have to advocate for, or against, a change, the school board is really quite important to our PTA/PTO mission.
The direction the board sets leads to changes at the school level which you, as a PTA leader, can react to. For example, if the board directs the superintendent to reduce the budget, that may trickle down to changes at the school. On the other hand, if the board puts forth a goal to increase global language opportunities, that may be a good time to get support for the after school program your PTA was trying to get off the ground. Similarly, the board will review data about the students in the district and you may learn that there are 30 different languages spoken in the district which may lead to you adding translation in different languages.
But what is the school board and how should the PTA interact with them?
In its simplest form, the school board is the steering committee and watchdog over a school or school district. For private institutions, boards will be appointed or elected members that will work with the school principal. For public institutions, school board members are locally elected public officials entrusted with governing a community’s public schools. The role of the school board is to ensure that school districts are responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of their communities.
In both setting, board tend to fulfill this perform five major responsibilities:
Establishing an effective and efficient structure
Providing support for schools and district leadership
Ensuring accountability of the school or district leadership
Providing community leadership as advocates for children, the school district and public schools
Board are also usually responsible for hiring the superintendent, negotiating with teachers, and holding the district accountable for its budget.
Your PTO or PTA should be involved in the following ways:
Have a parent teacher group attend board meetings and share the details with your pto board.
Review board meeting minutes.
Understand the board’s goals. The board will often be in charge of enforcing a three year school district plan and/or will be in the midst of coming up with that plan. Understanding that plan will help you understand the details of the meetings and potential changes that will come.
Advocating for or against any change that will be made. This requires review of the agendas beforehand and then attending the meeting and speaking out for/against the change.
Your superintendent is always a good place to start if you don’t have access to the board materials and/or want to know more information about boards plans.
If there are specific voting items in a future meeting that impact your school, don’t be afraid to reach out to board members to better understand what is happening and to get your school’s voice heard.
If you want more details on how to reach out to board members, you can listen to a full podcast episode on this topic here.