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What does a school board member do?

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions. If you do not see your question here, feel free to contact us.

Ohio’s school board members, one of the largest groups of elected officials in the state, are charged with one of the major responsibilities in government — to provide the best educational opportunities possible for the youth of Ohio and to manage and control the political subdivision of the school district. OSBA seeks to raise the profile of board service and encourage high-caliber candidates to run for office. Learn more about becoming a candidate in the OSBA webinar Being a School Board Candidate.

View other testimonials from Ohio school board members

Review the information below to learn about the role of a school board member:


What does a school board do?
The broadest definition of a school board’s role is that it acts as the governance team for the school district. It is important that the board is a positive and responsible liaison between the school district and community. School boards adopt policy and oversee the district’s policy manual. The board’s most important role is to employ the superintendent and treasurer and work closely with them to establish and set policy, vision and long-range goals and be accountable for the fiscal health and opportunities provided to the district’s students and families. School board members need to be strong district ambassadors to the community and work to build public support and understanding of public education. Remember, individual board members do not hold authority unless it has been delegated to them. The board’s legal authority is held by the governing body as a whole and is exercised through voting in public meetings. 

Board member responsibilities
The role and function of board members often are misinterpreted by the public. The board is a policymaking body and members are the chief advisors to the superintendent on community attitudes. Board members do not manage the day-to-day operations of a school district; they see to it that the system is managed well by professional administrators.

Board members do not evaluate staff, other than the superintendent and treasurer, nor do they typically become involved in employment interviews, other than those of the superintendent, business manager and treasurer. Board members may be consulted during the hiring process for other positions, such as assistant superintendent. 

View a video on board member responsibilities or visit the OSBA website to learn more about the responsibilities of being a school board member.

What makes a good school board member?
The answer to this question can have as many different answers as there are board members. In a broad sense, you must be willing to make a personal commitment. Understand that as a board member you have tremendous influence, but decision-making is done by the entire board and not by any one individual. Be willing to accept that there will be times when your opinions or feelings are not entirely represented in a final decision. It is the collective will of the board that prevails, and the best board members understand that board decisions must serve the best interests of the community and district students. It requires the ability to listen critically and objectively, conduct appropriate research, continue to learn and discuss issues openly with all parties before a decision is made.

View a free webinar on being a school board candidate.

Eligibility requirements
In order to run for the board, you must be:

  • a U.S. citizen,
  • at least 18 years old,
  • a resident of the state for at least 30 days preceding the election,
  • a resident of the school district for at least 30 days preceding the election,
  • registered to vote in the school district for at least 30 days preceding the election.


Conflicts of interest
There are conflicts of interest of which all board members must be aware to prevent jeopardizing their reputation or that of the school district. In addition to actions and relationships prohibited by school statutes, other prohibitions are set out in criminal statutes and statutes enforced by the Ohio Ethics Commission (OEC). Please note that these statutes need to be read together. Even though under one statute there may not be a conflict, there could be a conflict under another.

Among the statutory prohibitions are:

  • No member shall have, directly or indirectly, any pecuniary interest in any contract of the board or be employed for compensation by the board of which he or she is a member (Ohio Revised Code (RC) 3313.33).
  • No member of a school board may knowingly authorize or employ the authority or influence of his or her office to secure authorization of any public contract in which he or she, a member of his or her family or any of his or her business associates have an interest (RC 2921.42).
  • No board member may use or authorize the use of the authority or influence of his or her office to secure anything of value, or the promise of anything of value, or solicit or accept anything of value, that is of such a character as to manifest a substantial and improper influence upon him or her with respect to his or her duties (RC 102.03).

The above list is neither all-inclusive nor does it list the many exceptions to these laws. They also are subject to interpretation by the courts, Ohio Attorney General’s Office and OEC. If you think you may have a potential conflict of interest, please check with your board counsel, county prosecutor or city law director, or contact OEC at (614) 466-7090.

Compatibility of public offices and positions
If you already are a public employee or officeholder, a position on a board of education may be incompatible with your current position. Before seeking election, potential candidates should make certain they are eligible to serve. An index of opinions discussing compatibility of offices is available on the Ohio attorney general’s website. Contact the Ohio attorney general at (800) 282-0515 or OSBA at (614) 540-4000 for more information.

Filing information
A candidate must file a petition to run for a seat on a board of education. This petition must be filed with his or her county board of election by 4 p.m. on Aug. 9, 2023, the 90th day before the November general election (RC 3513.254, 3513.255). As of February 2019, the filing fees are $30.

The number of registered voters’ signatures needed varies. Local and exempted village district petitions must have 25 valid signatures (RC 3513.254). A candidate in a city district with a population fewer than 20,000 must have 25 valid signatures; a population of 20,000-49,999, 75 valid signatures; a population of 50,000-99,999, 150 valid signatures; a population of 100,000 or more, 300 valid signatures (RC 3513.254). Educational service center governing board candidates must have 50 valid signatures (RC 3513.255).

Candidates may obtain the petition forms and discuss questions about filing with their county board of elections or the Ohio secretary of state.