What is a school board?
In honor of the 28th anniversary of School Board Recognition Month, initiated by the National School Boards Association in 1995, we wanted to take some time to explain the responsibilities of school board members and highlight the role they play in public PK-12 education.
Each of the 295 public school districts in Washington State have a five-person board (except for the state’s largest district, Seattle Public Schools, which has seven members) made up of publicly elected officials who oversee and govern the district.
School Districts Organizational and Leadership Structure (simplified)
According to the Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA), the primary responsibilities of a public school board are to:
- Hire, supervise and evaluate the superintendent
- Set the vision, mission and strategic goals for the district
- Review, revise and adopt policies
- Establish and oversee the budget
- Serve as community representatives
- Monitor the districts’ progress towards its goals
Further, WSSDA has created Washington School Board Standards to provide a framework for effective governance as drawn from best practices and current research. The five core principle are:
- Responsible school district governance
- Communication of and commitment to high expectations for student learning
- Creating conditions district-wide for student and staff success
- Holding the district accountable for student learning
- Engagement of the community in education
Every year, WSSDA recognizes boards through their Boards of Distinction program which helps school boards govern successfully by aligning their efforts with the Standards. To be considered for recognition as a Board of Distinction, boards must fill out an application which doubles as an exercise in self-reflection.
In 2022, Cascade School Board was recognized at the Small District Board of the Year! In addition, Quincy School District was recognized as a Board of Distinction.
How are board members elected?
Any registered voter in the school district may run for election. Members serve a four-year term, and voters choose school board members in odd-numbered years. It is important to note that board member terms are staggered, meaning that not all positions are open at each election (How Does a School District Work, Washington State Office of the Education Ombudsman).
If you are interested in becoming a school board member WSSDA recommends visiting the Candidates page on the Washington Secretary of State’s website. They also note that it is important to verify eligibility: in addition to being a registered voter and living within the district, some positions require that the candidate live within a certain area of the district. They recommend checking with the local county elections department or the school district office to verify eligibility.
Shoutout to NCESD Region School District Boards
We want to say thank you to all the individuals who serve on one of the school boards in our region! Below are some shoutouts that were shared during January’s School Board Recognition Month.