As a parent-teacher group leader dealing with the day-to-day student experience or even the month-to-month event schedule, the school board’s high-level decisions sometimes do not impact 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 quite important to our PTA/PTO mission.
The direction the board sets leads to changes at the school level, which you can react to as a PTA leader. 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. You may learn that there are 30 different languages spoken in the district which may lead to you adding translations 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 district. For private institutions, boards or elected members will be appointed to 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 their communities' values, beliefs, and priorities.
In both sets, the board tends to fulfill this perform five primary 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
The board is 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 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 reviewing the agendas beforehand, 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 more information about board plans.
If specific voting items in a future meeting impact your school, don’t be afraid to reach out to board members to understand better what is happening and to get your school’s voice heard.
If you want more details on reaching out to board members, you can listen to a full podcast episode on this topic here.