Top 5 tips for working with your school district’s governing board

This post was originally published here.

 The state’s K-12 school system is a complex organization with decisions made at many levels. But  school district governing boards are probably the most impactful in many ways. These boards set priorities for the district, hire the superintendent, choose curriculum, and during the pandemic, they determine when and how schools open for in-person learning.

As a parent, how can you influence decisions being made by school district boards? Here are a few tips to make your voice heard:

    1. Get to know who is on the school district governing board. Members are usually listed on your school district website. Take a look – they might have a bio posted or you might need to explore online to find out more about them.
    1. Watch meetings to get a better understanding of what’s happening. Meetings aren’t exactly the latest blockbuster movie, but many are now streaming online so that you can stay engaged from the comfort of your own home. Watching meetings will give you an idea of how the board comes to decisions, what sort of issues the district is grappling with, as well as what positive things are happening in schools.

Regular board meetings are held once a month, typically at the same time and day of the week (such as the second Monday of each month). However, due to the pandemic, many governing boards have been calling special sessions to discuss important, timely issues. According to open meeting laws in Arizona, all meetings must be announced publicly at least 24 hours in advance and are posted on the district’s website.

    1. Reach out. If you’d like to share input on a topic the board is considering, be direct, but kind in communications. Board members are elected, but they’re not getting paid for their role in running the district. Most board members list their contact information on the district’s website.

Before contacting them, ensure you understand their role in local schools. There are clearly delineated responsibilities for a board, including setting the district budget and hiring a superintendent. However, they do not have direct control over individual schools.

Beyond personal outreach, most school boards offer a chance for the public to speak at a meeting (although comments may be limited to a specified amount of time, such as2 or 3 minutes) or submit a written statement that will be read aloud and as such, included in the official meeting minutes and recording. There is generally a Request to Speak or comment form that you can fill out before the meeting begins to indicate your desire to speak on a specific agenda item.

    1. Ask yourself, what’s best for all students? The largest districts in the state serve tens of thousands of students, while the smallest may serve hundreds. What may benefit your student could be a detriment to many others and school boards have to consider everyone and make their decisions based on the greater good.
    1. Stay engaged. Read newsletters from the school and the district, watch board meetings and keep in touch with leaders. Parents who stay informed on the issues are more likely to have an impact than those who only focus on one thing.

Don’t just reach out to share a complaint. Board members want hear what schools are doing well and how those successes are impacting students.

For newly elected school governing board members, their term will begin January 2021. You can check out the results of this year’s school board elections from November 3, 2020 on our website.

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