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LEGAL AUTHORITY OF SCHOOL BOARDS
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Tips for Board Members
Go slow in the beginning, especially if you have come to the board to “reform” it.
The chances are you will feel differently about a lot of things after six months on the board.
Remember that the only authority you have lies in the corporate action of the school board.
You have no legal authority to act alone unless the board as a whole specifically delegates a task to you.
Do not let your differences of opinion degenerate into personality conflicts
. Nothing is more devastating to good board procedures than to have one member vote for a measure simply because another member votes against it.
Don't talk too much.
You may acquire a reputation for wisdom simply by not saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment. One thing is certain: you are not learning when you are talking; you are only hearing your own ideas
If possible, keep out of teacher/personnel problems.
The board has hired a superintendent and staff to take the responsibility.
Give the superintendent and staff your public support.
Except in unusual and mitigating circumstances, the superintendent has a right to expect this. Use individual conferences with the superintendent and the official forum of legal board meetings to iron out differences of opinions.
Make an effort to be informed.
School business is always important business – and big business – with budgets into the hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars. To be informed requires time and effort. Ask for briefings from staff as you feel the need. Visit each school over which the board has authority.
Welcome people who come to see you about school problems.
Listen carefully, then refer them to the appropriate person according to board policy. If the problem is controversial, remember that you may be hearing only one side of the story. Do not commit yourself to a course of action that you may regret later. The board as a whole may not support your view, and you could find yourself in an embarrassing position of having committed yourself to a stand that the board rejects.
When a special interest group approaches, insist on your right to hear and review all the facts before you act.
A vocal minority can force a school board to act before all the facts are known and evaluated. If you are being pressed, tell them that you need more time to make a fair decision.
Accept your job on the board as one of responsible leadership in the community.
You will be expected to attend and participate intelligently in many public meetings on school affairs. This is more than an opportunity; it is an obligation to interpret school affairs to an interested public. You may clear away doubts, misconceptions and misunderstandings. You can do more than merely inform the public; you can help form public opinion and create active, intelligent support for education in your communities.