Boards of Education are the foundations of our public schools in New York State. They govern, guide policy, identify district goals, monitor fiscal matters, approve staff appointments, contracts and more. Despite the vast responsibilities of school boards, the contributions and service of these volunteers is often taken for granted.
On the heels of School Board Recognition Week, which was observed in October, I want to highlight the important roles of school boards and what being a Board of Education member entails to provide a better understanding of these essential governing bodies.
School board members are individuals who live in the community and are selected by the community. They are your neighbors, parents, grandparents, friends, local business owners, retirees–ordinary citizens who have a passion for public education. They are non-partisan and they receive no pay or benefits for their public service.
Members of the Board are responsible for many aspects of public education. The primary functions of school boards are to oversee the education of our community’s youth and create a shared vision for the future of education in the district. Within the Board are several committees that focus on different aspects of the district. They participate in the development and adoption of the school budget as well as district policies that provide guidelines for school facilities, student instruction and more.
Generally, the Board is considered the policy making body for the school district, creating policies to achieve district goals. The Superintendent is responsible for the execution of the policies set by the Board and the day-to-day administration of all aspects of district business. The Hudson City School District has more than 150 board policies addressing areas such as curriculum, donations, facilities use, purchasing, school safety, transportation and student organizations.
In most districts across the state, school board members are elected by voters. These public elections are held every May in conjunction with the annual school budget vote. The number of board members varies by district but it typically ranges from three to nine members. The Hudson City School District Board of Education is made up of seven members.
To be effective, school boards must have members who are dedicated to the advancement of their school districts and always working with the best interests of students in mind. Diversity is also a key factor in the effectiveness of school boards. It is beneficial to have school board members with diverse opinions and professional backgrounds who represent different constituencies within the district.
It is for all these reasons that school boards deserve special recognition and thanks, not only in the month of October but throughout the entire year. Even when school is not in session, these individuals are conducting business that prepares for the smooth operation of each school year in the best interests of the students and communities they serve.
If you are passionate about public education and want to help your school district be the best it can be, consider running for an open seat on your Board of Education next spring. I encourage you to attend a Board of Education meeting in your district to see the process of school governance in action. Since board meetings are open to the public, the meeting schedule should be available on your district’s website. You can get the HCSD Board of Education meeting schedule here.