As a new school board member, you have much to learn about the roles and responsibilities of a board member. With the increasing demand for educational excellence and fiscal accountability, the responsibilities of school boards are far more numerous and of greater impact than at any previous time in history.
More than 90,000 men and women are members of local school boards in the United States, all serving as important trustees of the nation’s public education systems. In Arizona, approximately 1,200 individuals serve as locally elected school board members.
Becoming an effective board member begins with the philosophy that you are there to serve the children of the district by providing the best education possible with the resources that are available. Every decision at the board table should be focused on how this vote will help the district improve educational outcomes for students.
The Arizona School Boards Association can help boards support the students in their communities through training, policy development and advocacy efforts.
Three overarching goals guide our work:
- Goal One: Providing model training and leadership emphasizing best practices in public school governance.
- Goal Two: Representing and advocating for the diverse interests of public school governing boards.
- Goal Three: Advocating the core beliefs and political agenda as adopted by the membership.
ASBA is positioned for the future, and we are also proud of our past. In 1951, the Arizona State Legislature passed an enabling act making the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) an agency of the state. Thus, for the first time, ASBA was assured modest funding, unity and legislative recognition. Recognizing a requirement for a degree of independence not available to a state agency, in 1974 ASBA became a private, non-profit organization. The Legislature authorized school district governing boards to join ASBA on a voluntary basis and to pay dues from district funds. Nearly every school district governing board in the state is a member.
Governance & Organization
ASBA is governed by its members through direct action and an elected board of directors comprising five elected officers and 17 county directors – one for each county in Arizona, with two for Pima and Maricopa counties due to their higher populations. The president of the Hispanic-Native American Indian Caucus and the Black Caucus are ex-officio voting members of the ASBA Board of Directors. Any board member serving as a member of the National School Boards Association Board of Directors is also an ex-officio voting member of the board. Officers are elected for one-year terms at the annual meeting, while county directors are elected for two-year terms at county meetings held each fall. All members of the ASBA Board of Directors are current school board members.
ASBA employs an executive director and a full-time staff whose offices are located at a headquarters office in Phoenix. The professional and administrative support staff provide practical training for governing board members, engage in legal, legislative and public advocacy on behalf of member boards’ interests, as determined by the association’s political agenda, and provide numerous other essential services in response to requests of the membership.
Training and Resources
ASBA provides member boards with training and information in leadership, governance and issues related to public education. Training is provided at workshops, conferences and events, held throughout the year in locations around the state. In addition, numerous training presentations are delivered through e-learning courses on ASBA’s website (www.azsba.org) and webinars.
ASBA represents the diverse interests of its member boards on issues related to K-12 education and local control of public education through leadership and advocacy in the state and federal legislative, policy and legal arenas. The association also works with individual boards and board members to develop and implement grassroots advocacy efforts. All board members have a voice in setting the policies and direction of the association. ASBA’s position on issues is based on its political agenda, which is discussed, debated and approved by membership at the annual ASBA Delegate Assembly. Public advocacy is also accomplished through robust communications including media relations, public relations, a variety of association print and online publications, social media and ASBA’s Arizona Education News Service (www.azednews.com), an online source for the latest news and information about public education in Arizona.
- Model Policy Subscription: ASBA offers a fee-based model policy service to member boards to help them ensure that they remain in compliance with state and federal law, policy and legal rulings. ASBA provides the template for policy, and works with each subscriber to tailor specific items to best serve the students and staff of the district. Web-based manual access and search capabilities are provided.
- Executive Search: ASBA offers comprehensive superintendent search services to member boards at rates well below the market average.
- Customized Governance Team Trainings: ASBA offers a variety of customized workshops to fit the needs of individual school boards. ASBA’s training team will consult with the district’s superintendent and board president and provide training for the entire board, focusing on issues that are important for the district and its leadership team. ASBA is also able to provide neutral facilitation for goal-setting and problem-solving meetings.
As a part of your membership in ASBA, all member governing boards are provided the following services:
- Consultation with ASBA staff members on any subject by any board member or superintendent by phone, electronically, by letter or via personal visit to the local district or ASBA offices.
- Opportunity to participate in group insurance programs for the district at considerable savings. Insurance is offered in the areas of health benefits and is continually being expanded to cover areas with potential savings to school districts.
- Collection and analysis of comparative school district salary information.
All board members whose boards belong to ASBA automatically receive the following publications as part of their dues:
- ASBA Journal. Published three times per year. This magazine is designed to broaden the horizons of board members and to provide an understanding of major educational, governance and leadership issues.
- Report Card. An e-newsletter with association news and information published twice each month throughout the year.
- AZEdNews E-Weekly. Each week this e-publication provides the latest news on Arizona K-12 education from the staff of ASBA’s Arizona Education News Service (www.azednews.com).
- The Best of AZEdNews. Published three times per year, the print publication features stories and a digest of articles reported and written by the staff of ASBA’s Arizona Education News Service (www.azednews.com).
- Legislative Comprehensive Brief/Legislative Wrap-Up Brief. These briefs, published electronically each legislative session, provide summaries of all bills introduced that impact public education in Arizona (comprehensive brief) and report on how they fared in the process (wrap-up).
In addition to the publications that are provided to board members at no cost, ASBA also publishes, at nominal cost, handbooks and manuals covering specific school management topics. Some of the subjects covered include administration, school law, governing boardsmanship, communications, advocacy and legislation.
The Legislature has provided for school district governing boards consisting of three or five members. The districts governed by these boards are political subdivisions of the state, and the members of these boards are considered public officials. All board members are elected at large except in districts that are under court order to elect members by “wards” or joint technical education school districts where representation by the board is apportioned by the districts that belong to the board.
The board operates as a corporate body. Individual school board members have no authority to act independently, and cannot commit or bind the board by their individual actions. Powers and duties of the board must be exercised by the board as a whole.
For the board to take action, the action must be voted on at a public meeting by a majority vote of the members elected to and serving on the board and a proper record made of the vote. The meeting must be properly convened and comply with proper notice to the board and proper notice to the public.
The regulations that govern how your school board operates are determined by the Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and your own school policies and the by-laws for your school district governing board. It is important that you are aware of the policies and by-laws that your school board has established and follow them carefully in order to avoid any fines and lawsuits for violations.
- Legislation. As the district’s policy-making body, the board must establish the policies needed to guide the operation of the schools in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations. Policies are “the law” of the district.
- Evaluation. After the policies have been adopted by the board and implemented by the professional staff, the board is responsible for evaluating the operations of the schools and the performance of their students. Normally, the basis for such assessment is the information furnished to the board by the superintendent and members of the staff. The board cannot carry on its governing activities without being kept well-informed by the superintendent. This necessitates excellent communication from the superintendent to the board and vice versa.
- Disciplinary action. Only the governing board can dismiss an employee or expel a student. When the superintendent recommends dismissing an employee or expelling a student, the board often conducts a hearing designed to ensure that all relevant information is before the board when it makes its decision. (Often the board will have an independent hearing officer make a recommendation on dismissal or expulsion.) In these matters, the board must act as a judge and jury independent of the school administration to make a fair and impartial decision. As a matter of policy, the board may choose to have an independent hearing officer make a recommendation to them regarding dismissal of the employee or expulsion of the student.
- Board operations. The governing board’s procedures for conducting its meetings and other business matters are established by the board itself. These procedures include electing board officers, scheduling meetings, developing meeting agendas, voting on motions and recording board actions.
- Planning. A governing board must plan for the continued effectiveness and further improvement of the educational system. Only with sound planning can schools effectively respond to the challenges of educating a diverse student population in the midst of our rapidly changing society. The board must project future enrollment, gauge the life of existing buildings and facilities, and have adequate plans to meet future demands on the school system.
Specific Authority and Duties of Governing Boards
In Arizona, governing boards are required by law to perform certain duties. Some of the things that boards are specifically required by law to do are:
- Appoint a superintendent, principal or head teacher
- Hire and dismiss school employees
- Adopt a curriculum and standards for promotion and graduation
- Establish a school calendar
- Establish policies for the acquisition, maintenance and disposition of school property
- Approve all contracts for the school system
- Adopt a budget for the fiscal year
In addition, governing boards are granted discretionary authority to take other specific actions if the board deems them appropriate. For example, governing boards may expel students, require students to wear uniforms and authorize travel for school purposes. Board members should carefully review Title 15 to determine which duties must be performed by boards and what additional discretionary authority is granted to boards. Board members should carefully review A.R.S. 15-341 and 15-342, which list the general powers and duties of governing boards and are reproduced at Appendices C and D.
Delegation of Authority
The authority granted to the governing board by the Legislature may not be further delegated to other groups or persons unless authorized by statute or the common law. For example, only the board may approve the expenditure of district funds or hire personnel. The board, of course, may and should rely heavily on the advice and recommendations of its administrative staff and consult other groups or persons in the process of reaching its decisions.
As CEO of the school district, the superintendent is responsible for:
- Implementing policy set by the board
- Making recommendations to the board based on his/her best educational knowledge regarding:
- Informing the board of all vital matters pertaining to the school district
- Developing and maintaining an efficient and effective management system for the school district
- Delegating appropriate responsibilities and assigning duties to other employees of the district, but ultimately being accountable for their actions
- Recommending all candidates for employment and being directly and indirectly responsible for their administration, including annual evaluation of performance and professional growth plans
- Developing and improving instructional programming of the school including being alert to advances and improvements in educational programming.
- Preparing and submitting a preliminary budget to the board and managing the financial operations of the school district.
Positive Working Relationship
Research has shown that a positive working relationship between the board and the superintendent can directly impact student achievement in the district. It’s fairly easy to surmise that if there is continual acrimony and disruption between the board and the superintendent, very little will be accomplished in the district and students will be negatively impacted by the lack of harmony and cohesiveness. There are several actions that boards and superintendents can take to ensure a good working relationship will exist.
Full disclosure: The cornerstone of a strong board-superintendent partnership is the frank disclosure of school problems to the board members. Complete and thorough disclosure requires the superintendent be open and receptive to inquiries from members of the board, that she/he be knowledgeable about the district’s activities, and that she/he provide information as quickly as possible.
Frequent two-way communication: The superintendent should provide timely oral and written communications of pending or emergency items. Board members should reciprocate, immediately informing the superintendent of citizen’s concerns.
The board must be well informed to make wise decisions. The superintendent is responsible for keeping board members informed on an on-going basis (not just at meetings). Before major decisions are made, board members should have an opportunity to read background information, examine alternatives, and consider the implications of alternative actions.
Careful planning: No one enjoys surprises, and careful planning will avoid most of them. The superintendent and the board should plan together. Planning begins with the board adopting yearly objectives for the district, by which the board provides direction for the superintendent. The superintendent oversees the implementation of the objectives. An excellent approach to global planning that involves the community is strategic planning.
Informal interaction: The superintendent must interact regularly with board members. They should attend conferences together, and participate in school activities. Through such informal interaction they become more sensitive to each other’s interests and values, without, of course, breaching professional relationships.
Periodic evaluation: The superintendent and the board should evaluate the work of the school district at sessions scheduled throughout the year. Periodic evaluations, in addition to the regularly scheduled formal annual evaluation, keeps the board apprised of the progress on district goals. At these meetings the board should evaluate the superintendent, discuss the relationship between the board and the superintendent and agree to any modifications necessary.
Mutual support: Both parties need support from the other. A strong partnership is strengthened when board members support the superintendent from unjust criticism and the superintendent, in turn, defends board members from unwarranted accusations.
Essential Attributes of an Effective School Board Member
Even the most experienced board members never stop learning the technical details of the job, and those that are successful learn early that being effective requires more than knowing the details of the tenure law or how to interpret the budget. Being a successful board member begins with a genuine commitment to striving for high quality public education that supports the full development of all children. There are certain skills and attributes which are consistently present in effective board of education members. Here are some steps to consider:
- Be prepared to participate responsibly. Do your homework, come prepared to work, remember that sometimes the work is to listen, agree and disagree as your values dictate, and accept that the group decision is legitimate even if it’s not your personal choice. It’s not acceptable to have opinions and not express them.
- Focus on serving all children. Ensure every deliberation, decision and action reflects the best interests of every student you serve. No child is more important than another.
- Remember that your identity is with the community, not the staff. It’s easy to identify with staff as you probably will have more discussions with them about issues. But you must remember that your job is to serve in trust for the community.
- Represent the community, not a single constituency. You will understand and/or identify with certain constituencies (parents, neighborhoods or communities, special ed, etc.), but you MUST remember that being a board member means serving in trust for the entire community. There’s no way seven people can provide a spokesperson for every constituency or legitimate interest, so in a moral sense you must stand for them all. You can be FROM a constituency, but you must not let yourself REPRESENT it.
- Be responsible for group behavior and productivity. You are responsible for not only yourself but the group. If the group doesn’t do its job, meddles in administration, or breaks its own rules, you personally share that responsibility.
- Honor divergent opinions without being intimidated by them. You are obligated to express your honest opinions on issues, and so are each of the other board members. Encourage your colleagues to speak their opinions and listen to them carefully and respectfully. But don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by louder or more insistent board members.
- Use your special expertise to inform your colleagues’ wisdom. If you have special expertise (law, accounting, construction, etc.) remember that you’re NOT personally responsible for decisions relating to that area. Use your expertise to help inform your colleagues (i.e., help them understand what fiscal health looks like v. fiscal jeopardy) but don’t assume sole responsibility for those decisions. Also remember that you’re not on the board to help the staff or even advise them with your special expertise. Your job as a board member is to govern. If you wish to offer your help as an expert, make sure that all parties know you are acting as a volunteer, not a board member, and remember that asking for or accepting your help is a staff prerogative, not yours.
- Be aware of the community and staff’s perceptions of the board. If the board is perceived as being unethical, dishonest, secretive or self-serving, whether justified or not, that will become reality for the community and staff. Consider how stakeholders might interpret your behaviors and decisions then act accordingly.
- Think upward and outward more than downward and inward. There is a great temptation to focus on what goes on with management and staff instead of what difference the district should make in the larger world. This requires ignoring the minutia or details in order to examine, question and define the big picture.
The board member and his/her family and possibly business will inevitably be affected by a board member’s investment of time and talent in the schools. If you learn to manage the demands of public service on your private life, board service can be rewarding and enjoyable. Most boards meet once or twice each month with a typical meeting lasting between two and four hours; emergencies may prompt additional special meetings. Board members may also have to attend committee meetings that require even further preparation and time. The board member’s involvement in community affairs and attendance at school programs and events accounts for even more dedicated time to the board member’s schedule.
Many newly elected board members are unprepared for the huge amount of board-related paperwork they must read or for the multitude of new information they must learn in a very short time. It’s not uncommon to hear board members state that it takes them several hours prior to a board meeting to review their board packet thoroughly and to get all their questions answered.
Without question, there is a huge time commitment required to serve on a board of education. However, experienced board members often find that the tremendous satisfaction they reap from their public service greatly outweighs any negative aspects of the job or personal sacrifices they must make. Still, anyone running for the school board should be well aware that they will be dedicating many hours to fulfilling the responsibilities of their new position.
Ways to use your time more efficiently:
- Determine how you will manage the multitude of information you will be receiving by developing your own filing and paper routing system. Keep in mind that your administration keeps on file all the board packets and agendas from past meetings. Because everyone works differently, you will need to organize on the basis of your own most effective way of working. Don’t get bogged down in paperwork and skim documents with an eye for the most important points.
- Familiarize yourself with board polices to get a feel for the many details of school operations.
- Use the minutes and agendas of past board meetings to learn about the kinds of issues that have come before the board.
- Learn to say “no.” Prior to being elected to the board, you were probably very active in community and school events that required much of your time. You will have to make some decisions about those activities you need to give up in order to make time for your new board responsibilities. This requires you to establish priorities and learn to say yes to only the priorities at the top of your list. For very service oriented board members, this may be one of the most difficult challenges for them.
- Decide how you want to handle the many concerns, questions and requests you will be receiving from community members both in person and by phone or mail. The time you spend on responding to community concerns can consume your life if you allow it to. Designate times when you will return calls or respond to letters. When approached out in the community, let concerned citizens know you have a limited time to talk with them, but assure them you will contact them later (at a time more convenient for you) or contact the appropriate person to handle their concern. As public officials, board members have a duty to listen to community input. However, they also have a right to protect some time solely dedicated to their personal lives.
- As a new board member, you can save time right from the start by learning as much as you can about the school system. Primarily, you need to learn what channels to go through for information which you should learn during a district orientation program. Meet with the superintendent and board president to learn more about how the board operates and key issues the district is facing.
- Attend conferences and training classes provided by MASB to learn as much as possible about your responsibilities as a board member.
All meetings of a public body (i.e., school board) must be open to the public.
- A “meeting” is defined as the convening of a public body at which a quorum is present for the purpose of deliberating toward or rendering a decision on a public policy.
- The Act does not apply to a social or chance gathering or conference where a quorum is present as long as board members in attendance do not collectively discuss matters of public policy.
- An advisory committee composed of less than a quorum of the full board can also be a “public body” subject to the Act’s requirements.
All decisions of a public body must be made at a meeting open to the public.
All deliberations of a public body constituting a quorum of its members must take place at a meeting open to the public unless a closed meeting exception applies.
Closed meeting exceptions to the open deliberations requirement:
- Considering the dismissal, suspension, or disciplining of an employee or student if a closed meeting is requested by the employee or student;
- Hearing complaints or charges brought against an employee or school board member per his or her request for a closed meeting;
- Considering a periodic personnel evaluation of an employee if he or she requests a closed session;
- Conducting strategy and negotiation sessions connected with a collective bargaining agreement;
- Considering the purchase or lease of property;
- Consulting with legal counsel regarding pending litigation;
- Reviewing applications for employment or appointment when the applicant requests confidentiality; and
- Considering material exempt from discussion or disclosure by law.
A public body cannot hold a meeting without first giving public notice of the meeting at its principal office.
Minutes must be kept of all meetings, whether open or closed, and regardless of whether the meeting is identified as a regular or special meeting, study session, committee of the whole, or by some other name.
Members of the public have the right to attend all open meetings and to address the board during the meeting according to rules adopted by the board.
School Board Leadership
A local board of education has one of the most important responsibilities in our society – helping lead the education of the children in the community. Its decisions affect the lives of students and their parents, the livelihoods of those the district employs and the economic well-being of the community.
At a time when America’s schools and students face greater challenges than ever before, school boards must demonstrate their leadership by focusing on the academic skills and competencies of students that will make them successful citizens in the future. To accomplish this task, boards must be visionary and open to embracing research-based reforms that have resulted in high performing districts. Do you have the leadership skills necessary to accomplish the enormous progress schools must make? The following characteristics can be found in the highly successful leader.
Leaders know and understand what it means and what it takes to be a leader
Leadership is the act of identifying important goals and then motivating and enabling others to devote themselves and all necessary resources to achievement. It includes summoning one’s self and others to learn and adapt to the new situation represented by the goal.
Leaders have a vision for schools that they constantly share and promote
Leaders have a vision of the ideal, can articulate this vision to any audience, and work diligently to make it a reality. Leaders also know how to build upon and sustain a vision that preceded them.
Leaders communicate clearly and effectively
Leaders possess effective writing and presentation skills. They express themselves clearly, and are capable of responding to the hard questions in a public forum. They are also direct and precise questioners, always seeking understanding.
Leaders collaborate and cooperate with others
Leaders communicate high expectations and provide accurate information to foster understanding and maintain trust and confidence. Leaders reach out to others for support and assistance, build partnerships, secure resources, and share credit for successes and accomplishments.
Leaders persevere and take the “long view”
Leaders build institutions that endure. They “stay the course” maintain focus, anticipate and work to overcome resistance. They create capacity within the organization to achieve and sustain its vision.
Leaders support, develop and nurture staff
Leaders set a standard for ethical behavior. They seek diverse perspectives and alternative points-of-view. They encourage initiative, innovation, collaboration, and a strong work ethic. Leaders expect and provide opportunities for staff to engage in continuous personal and professional growth.
Leaders hold themselves and others responsible and accountable
Leaders embrace and adhere to comprehensive planning that improves the organization. They use data to determine the present state of the organization, identify root-cause problems, propose solutions, and validate accomplishments.
Leaders never stop learning and honing their skills
Leaders are introspective and reflective. Leaders ask questions and seek answers. Leaders in education are familiar with current research and best practice, not only in education, but also in other related fields.
Leaders have the courage to take informed risks
Leaders embrace informed, planned change and recognize that everyone may not support change. Leaders work to win support and are willing to take action in support of their vision, even in the face of opposition.
The Value of an Agenda
A well-planned agenda helps board members prepare for effective discussions and decisions. It assures that the concerns of board members, staff and community will be given appropriate consideration. It helps make it possible to conduct the meeting in an orderly, efficient and fair manner with a minimum of confusion, misunderstanding, dissension (even disaster) that could result from inadequate preparation. It is an avenue for communicating to the board, staff and community important matters to be discussed and actions to be taken. It is an important record – for preparing the minutes, planning future meetings and even for legal purposes.
The Agenda – Foundation of an Effective Meeting
- The steering mechanism for any meeting.
- Forces logical organization and preparation for the meeting.
- Serves the meeting leader as a guidance and disciplinary tool.
- Tells those who will participate how to prepare.
- For board members, the agenda identifies items and issues to be discussed and for which advance study may be advisable.
- For the public, it calls attention to matters in which an individual may be especially interested.
- For the staff, it indicates what supporting materials may be needed to assure that the board will have the information necessary to reach the right decision.
- For the board president, the agenda provides the guidelines necessary for conducting the meeting in an efficient, well-organized manner.
- For legal purposes, the agenda is kept on file and can be cited as the record of what transpired, also serving as the basis for preparation of the minutes.
- For the superintendent, as the chief administrative officer and advisor to the board, the agenda provides the means for assuring that items and matters to be reported and acted upon will be brought to the board’s attention.
Steps in Preparing an Agenda
Typically, the superintendent and board president jointly prepare the agenda, with the superintendent responsible for gathering items and preparing the public notices while the board president is responsible for advice. Once the agenda is designed, the president is responsible for ensuring that the agenda is followed.
Prioritize Items on the Agenda
To be considerate of people who may be unable to stay until the end of the board meeting, schedule special recognitions of students and staff and presentations by speakers and presenters early in the meeting so that they may leave after their involvement in the meeting. Also schedule significant matters and items requiring concentration, analysis, and deliberation by board members and staff early on. Items that are routine or have relatively little importance to the audience may be scheduled toward the end of the meeting.
Focus the Agenda on District Goals and the Big Picture
Your challenge, as a board, is to avoid drowning in the sea of details that surrounds you and, instead, focus your agenda on achieving district goals and look at “big picture” trends that affect the educational well-being of the children in your district. If your meeting agenda does not link to district goals, you may find your board meeting time consumed by relatively insignificant items.
Limit the Number of Agenda Items
The number of items on the agenda may adversely affect the length of the meeting. The fuller your agenda, the better your meeting must be organized. The board president and the superintendent should estimate the time needed for each presentation or discussion item when planning the meeting agenda to ensure a reasonable meeting length with enough time allocated to discuss each item.
More on Preparing the Agenda
- Determine the ultimate goal(s) of the meeting and the steps to get there.
- Break down the generalized topics in the agenda into specific discussion items to promote logical meeting thought and better control of this flow.
- Organize multiple topic meetings so that related subjects are discussed in order.
- Delineate between action and information items.
- Hold separate meetings for very important topics.
- Select the people who attend, besides the board.
- Consider the possible barriers and ways to get around or through them.
- Mark each item on the agenda with policy references.
- Have the staff prepare specific, pre-drafted motions and resolutions where possible.
Getting on the Agenda
Every school board should have a policy which sets out procedures and conditions for persons who wish to appear before the board of education. In developing its policy the board should consider that only members of the board have a right to speak at board meetings. Board meetings are public meetings but not meetings of the public.
A prerequisite to getting on the agenda should be that a person exhausts administrative remedies before bringing the problem to the board. A board should not allow a person to use a board meeting as a forum to complain about a problem until administrators have had a chance to solve the problem.
Boards should also consider the following questions during the development of a policy regarding placement on the agenda.
- May any board member submit an item for inclusion? If so, how? Are there timelines?
- May any member of the public submit an item for inclusion? If so, how? Are there timelines?
- Who are the key people involved in structuring the agenda?
- Who is responsible for collecting all the information, suggestions and requests and actually preparing the agenda?
- Are annual agenda items reviewed to ensure annual events are not overlooked?
A common fault is to dwell too long on trivial but urgent items, to the exclusion of subjects of fundamental importance whose significance is long-term rather than immediate. This can be remedied by putting on the agenda the time at which discussion of the issue will begin – and sticking to it.
To expedite business at a school board meeting, the board may choose to use a consent agenda. A consent agenda is an item listed on the regular agenda that groups routine items under one agenda heading. This allows your board to take a unified motion and action on all items listed under the consent agenda instead of taking separate votes on each item.
It is understood that all items listed under the consent agenda have the recommendation of your superintendent and are routine in nature. Routine items are those items that occur throughout the year and are thought to be readily acceptable to all members.
If a consent agenda is used, the board president should ask if any member of your board would like to discuss or remove any item from the consent agenda to discuss and vote separately on that item. All items on the consent agenda are approved by a single motion stated as follows: “I move to approve the items listed on the consent agenda.” If the motion receives a second, the president takes the vote on the single motion.
Routine items listed on the consent agenda should include:
- Approval of personnel changes.
- Review of monthly bills or financial report.
- Resolution to recognize Educational Secretaries Week.
- Approval of minutes.
Some boards prefer to schedule the consent agenda early on the agenda and include approval of the minutes; others prefer to schedule it later on the agenda. This is your board’s decision. Remember the purpose of a consent agenda is to save time.
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.
[LINK] Funding for Schools
The Legislature implemented the school funding formula that exists in Arizona today starting in the 1980-1981 school year. The formula was developed in response to property tax limitations that were being put in place in many states including Prop 13 that had been approved in California. The new system for funding schools in Arizona was designed to reduce local property taxes, especially property taxes for homeowners.
In addition, the new formula was designed to “equalize” school spending between school districts. The basic formula for funding school district operations today is very similar to the legislative formula that was put in place in the 1980-1981 school year. In July of 1998, the Legislature significantly changed the capital finance system. The new system called Students First (Fair and Immediate Resources for Students Today) was passed by the Legislature under a court order from the Arizona Supreme Court. The new system created minimal adequacy
standards for schools and provided state dollars to bring school districts across the state up to these adequacy standards. Also, the new system put in place the Arizona School Facilities Board, which uses a formula to determine when the state will fund the purchase of land and the building of new schools for qualifying school districts.
The annual school district budget is a planning document that lists how the district will operate financially during the school year. The budget expresses the anticipated expenditures of the district for the entire year. The completion of this document may be one of the most important activities of a governing board. This document is a plan for allocating financial resources and determines the type of educational programs that will be funded. This document is a statement of the school district’s funding priorities for the school year.
When Do You Begin?
If the budget is not required to be adopted until July 15, when does the budget process begin in the district? Many school districts begin as early as November to develop preliminary budget projections. A budget calendar may be developed that lists the significant activities during the year. One of the first steps may be to assess existing programs in order to consider which programs require revisions. Also, early in the budget process, districts may look at any new programs that need to be developed during the upcoming school year.
Since employee salaries and benefits are a major portion of the school district’s budget, decisions in this area will be critical to completing the budget process. The number of employees and the salary level for employees is a major issue in the development of most school district budgets. The actual budget limitation is based on the prior year’s average daily membership (ADM) through the first 100 days in session.
After a school district has been in session for 100 days, the district may revise its budget upward to reflect any additional students.
How Are Students Counted?
The district counts the students enrolled for each of the first 100 days. The average for these first 100 days becomes the average daily membership (ADM), or student count.
How Is the Budget Limit Established?
The Legislature has prescribed budget limitations for Arizona school districts. The first item in the budget limit calculation is the revenue control limit (RCL). The factors that impact on the RCL are:
- the ADM of the district
- special program add-ons for academic assistance and reading programs for pupils in kindergarten through Grade 3 and for certain disabled students
- the district’s teacher experience index (TEI) 4) transportation route miles
Laying the Foundation for Service
Completing New Board Member Orientation is the first step in your professional development as a governing board member. New Board Member Orientation is offered each year at the ASBA|ASA Annual Conference held in mid-December.
The purpose of the New Board Member Orientation is to:
- Provide new governing board members and superintendents with an accurate look at school governance including roles and responsibilities.
- Help new board members understand the legal and ethical responsibilities of the office.
- Provide an overview of Arizona school finance and budgeting.
- Create opportunities for new board members to ask questions and develop professional relationships with other board members, superintendents and ASBA staff.
Click on the EVENTS tab of our website to register for the Annual Conference. In filling out the online registration form, you will be asked to identify the number and names of those attending the New Board Member Orientation track.
Note that the orientation track involves an additional $50 fee which covers the cost of all materials, including the following publications:
- ASBA School Board Member Handbook
- Arizona Open Meeting Law
Upon successful completion of each session in the orientation track, you will be awarded six hours of Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credit.
Can’t Attend Annual Conference and New Board Member Orientation in December?
ASBA recognizes that attending our Annual Conference in Phoenix in the month of December might not be a viable option for you. To address that concern, ASBA is in the process of developing an alternate means to receive this critical qualification. While some of the modules are still in development, any individual make take the online training content. Ultimately, when all the modules are created and you have taken each 20+ minute module, board members an also achieve “attendance” at NBMO. Click on the “NEW BOARD MEMBER ORIENTATION” tab of the Learning Center to being interacting with the online training content.
School District Governing Board Transitions
Many school districts have questions on the official process to successfully transition new board members on to the governing board. This document will help provide answers to new board members being sworn in, board member oath of office, organizational meetings, attendance and eligibility to serve and conflicts of interest. Download our FAQ document.
Gateway to Training Recognition Program
In addition to laying a foundation for your board service, completing New Board Member Orientation (NBMO) is also the gateway to participation in ASBA’s Academy of Board Development recognition program. This prerequisite will allow you to receive your Certificate of Orientation and then potentially many other awards that ASBA offers. Check out the Recognition of Training tab on the Academy of Board Development page for more information.
The Academy of Board Development is designed to equip board members with the knowledge and techniques necessary to develop policies and practices to support the organization’s instructional leadership role.
This training program is based on attendance at workshops, conferences and other training opportunities. Its objectives are:
- To recognize board members for personal efforts toward improvement.
- To be an incentive for voluntary board member training.
- To promote the idea of better boardsmanship.
View a complete Calendar of Events for information for new board members.
Visit our Learning Center, for eLearning modules, resources and other training materials