Welcome to Board Watch: School Board 101
Tools You Need to Plug In & Speak Up
School Board FAQ adapted from the National School Board website
What does a school board do?
Your school board is responsible for:
- employing the superintendent
- developing and adopting policies, curriculum, and the budget;
- overseeing facilities issues; and
- adopting collective bargaining agreements.
Do school board members receive pay?
- Board members receive a small monthly stipend (less than $1,000) to offset costs of travel, transportation, and materials incurred while performing board functions.
What makes a school board effective?
Effective School Boards:
- Commit to a vision of high expectations for student achievement.
- Have strong shared beliefs and values about students’ ability to learn and of the system and its ability to teach all children at high levels.
- Are accountability driven.
- Have a collaborative relationship with staff and the community.
- Are data-savvy.
- Align and sustain resources to meet district goals.
- Lead as a united team with the superintendent.
- Take part in team development and training
How can I communicate with my school board?
School board members engage community members in many informal ways:
- they post information on social media
- they talk with parents, the media, and local organizations
- they bring citizen groups together on a variety of issues
School board members also engage the public in more formal ways:
- study sessions
- focus groups
- town meetings
Tom Panas, Board President
firstname.lastname@example.org | (510) 610-9438
Stephanie Hernández-Jarvis, Board Clerk
email@example.com | (661) 303-2394
firstname.lastname@example.org | (510) 231-1101
email@example.com | (510) 309-1514
firstname.lastname@example.org | (510) 307-7872
How to Speak to a School Board
Adapted from piece written by Julie Collier
School boards encourage community members to attend open school board meetings, and they establish procedures for people who wish to speak or ask questions during the public comment period.
First, know that you (and everyone else) are going to feel a bit frightened. Please keep in mind that if you feel strongly enough to speak, there is probably a group in the audience that feels the same way you do. You will have support from someone in the audience. One way to calm your nerves is to think of the hardest thing you have experienced in your life (childbirth, surgery, sick family members, etc.) and know that speaking your mind to an audience is easy in comparison!
Here are some general guidelines on school board meetings:
- You may speak to the Board on any subject that falls within the District’s authority.
- If you wish to speak at the Board meeting, you must fill out a speaker card before the item you want to speak on begins. Speaker cards are found at the table where you receive a copy of the agenda just inside the auditorium.
- If you wish to speak to about a topic in the agenda, write the agenda item on your speaker card.
- If you wish to speak about something not on the agenda, you will speak in public comment. This time for open comments begins at the beginning of the school board meeting for 30 minutes, Any additional speakers beyond that time limit will speak at the end of the meeting.
- Speakers should plan to arrive early because sometimes agenda items are reordered based on public interest.
Here are some tips to writing a speech:
- Always write something down on paper.
- Have 2 pieces of paper. On one piece of paper, start with the point you want to make and add two or three reasons to support your point. That will be your guide to writing your speech. Now, on the 2nd piece of paper write an introduction with your name and school your kids attend. Next, state your point and why you are concerned.
- Write about your reasons to support your issue and the steps you think your School Board should take to solve your issue.
- Finish your speech with a solid conclusion. Reiterate your point of view, the steps you think the School Board should take, and why it is important to listen to you.
- If you can, type your final speech in a large font. Using a larger font will help you stay on track as you are reading your speech.
Take some time to practice your speech and time it. School districts usually have a time limit on public speeches (typically 2 minutes in WCCUSD). Do not worry about memorizing it. Just read what you wrote. While you are practicing, remember to use a tone that is strong, but not threatening. The members of the board will automatically stop listening if they feel you are scolding them. So sound strong, but not rude. Do not forget to review the rules of your school board regarding speaking to the board. You can usually find the rules on the district website.
Now that you have written your speech, practiced your speech, and reviewed the board rules, you are ready to go! Arrive early and bring water (leave the gum at home). It always helps to bring a friend or two for support.
When they call your name, take a deep breath and slowly release it. As you are speaking and you feel your voice shake or fade, stop for 3-5 seconds and take a deep breath. The audience will not notice 3-5 seconds (even though it seems like an eternity to you). When you finish your speech, thank the board and give yourself a pat on the back. You have just accomplished something most people would never do. The best part-you did it all for your child!