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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 about becoming a candidate in the OSBA webinar Being a School Board Candidate.

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. Visit the OSBA website to learn more about the responsibilities of being a 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.

 

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 the 90th day before the November general election (RC 3513.254, 3513.255). This year, that day is Aug. 7. 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.