Role and Responsibilities

What is a school board?

A school board, often referred to as a board of education is a corporate body that oversees and manages a public school district's affairs, personnel, and properties. School board members are elected by the residents of the school district that the board oversees.

What do school board members do?

School board members are local officials. Their authority and duties are defined by the state and federal constitutions and laws, as well as by rules and regulations promulgated by the Board of Regents and the commissioner of education.  

* They sign an oath of responsibility as an agent of NYS for the education of all children and youth of the state.

* They learn their district’s goals and policies set by their boards in previous years.

* They make decisions based on district policies and governmental regulations.

* They participate in a periodic review of policies and goals—to help define policy and to develop long-term plans.

* They seek to influence state and federal laws and regulations since these mandates often do not include needed funds for compliance, restrict local district decision making, and interfere with existing successful programs.

* They seek adequate state and federal support for successful public schools.

* They attend workshops/seminars on a wide range of topics to enable sound decisions.

* They listen to concerned citizens as the need arises and direct them to the proper district employee for resolution of problems.

* They do NOT involve themselves in operating the school district, but DO receive reports on the happenings in he school district and regular progress reports on district goals and initiatives.

What do school boards do?

* School boards select superintendents for their districts. This decision is considered their most important decision since superintendents serve as the chief executive officers of school boards. Superintendents recommend actions for board approval and implement board decisions.

* Some board decisions are difficult or unpopular. A school board’s first responsibility is to the children it serves, not to pressure groups.

  • School boards gather input from concerned citizens and explain controversial decisions.
  • Board members must defend and support controversial board decisions.

* Some board decisions are routine:

  • Approving agendas and minutes;
  • Accepting reports, warrants, or bills;
  • Staff placement;
  • Program placements for students with disabilities;
  • Meeting schedules, topics, and times.

* Decisions made by the school board are implemented by the district’s superintendent and staff.

* Boards of education act only as a whole and during public meetings. A school board is a corporate body, so has power only when meeting as a board.

* Boards of education frequently hold study sessions to discuss and review proposals without taking official action.

* School boards create and revise their districts’ mission statements and goals, as well as the district policies that support them.

* No one board member can bind the school board to a particular action. Persuasion during open discussion is the only way to influence voting on issues before a school board.

* School boards annually adopt a school district budget to determine the number of staff members, to reflect changes in student needs, and to support changes in program offerings.

  • The budget is presented directly to voters for approval on the third Tuesday in May.

* School boards ratify contracts with employee bargaining units. They study labor issues and review the negotiations process. They include funds in their budget proposal for negotiated salaries.

Sources: New York State School Law, 35th Edition. New York State School Boards Association (2014)
Monroe County school Board Association