How to Become a School Board Member: What to Know

Lena Eisenstein

Every public school district is governed by a school board. These board members are representatives of their community, putting the interest of the future of students of the local district first.

The school board consists of citizens elected from their community making decisions about the local public school system based on the community expectations, goals, and needs. School board members are chosen by the public to take the needs of students and implement those into a vision, policies, and goals that will support student achievement.

Serving as a school board member is a challenging role that is not for everyone. There are many different factors in how to become a school board member that one must take into consideration.

Basic Responsibilities of a School Board

  1. Establish a clear vision and goals.
A successful and efficient board knows that the establishing and implementing of strategic plans is necessary to effective governance. The board should form a vision that is reflective of the needs and desires of the local community. Then, establish and accomplish goals that directly support that vision.
  1. Be knowledgeable of policies and governance processes.
It is imperative that school board are aware of the various federal and state laws, regulations, and local policies that can impact the work for the local district. These laws and policies govern the work of the school board. It is imperative that school boards stay abreast of these policies and regulations and how they may impact the school board's actions.
  1. Hire and evaluate the superintendent.
School boards can face a lot of pressure and responsibility in hiring a superintendent of the public school district. The superintendent effectively serves as the chief executive officer of the local district, carrying out the day-to-day work to accomplish goals and fulfill the vision for the local district.
  1. Approve an annual budget aligned with the vision of the local school district.
Ensuring that the expenses of the public school district is aligned with the goals and vision set by the school board is one of the board's greatest responsibilities. It ensures that the board is 'putting their money where their mouth is' when it comes to achieving the goals and working towards the vision of the district.
  1. Serve as leaders of the community and as advocates for students, the school district, and public schools.

School board members are elected to serve as representatives of their communities. It is imperative for good board members to be aware of the work and expectations that have been set for them.

Being aware the work required of school board members allows for potential candidates to step into the role with a more accurate understanding of the responsibilities.

Some states, like Ohio, offer workshops for potential candidates where veteran board members lead candidates through a program to learn how to become a school board member and to help them better understand the everyday roles and responsibilities of board members. Explore these opportunities to gain knowledge on your local and state school board member obligations and requirements.

>> Learn More With Our "New School Board Member Orientation Kit" Whitepaper

Why Should You Become a School Board Member?

Serving as a school board member requires commitment, taking a great amount of time and dedication. The motivations behind becoming a school board member can vary for each individual.

Are there specific needs for your community that you desire to see met? A goal to improve student achievement and opportunities? When inquiring how to become a school board member, it is also imperative to understand why you are interested in the role.

Common Qualifications for School Board Candidates

There are five common qualifications that most states have in order to be eligible to be a candidate in a school board election. While these may be common criteria necessary to run for school board, it does vary by state and district. A school board candidate may be asked to meet the following requirements:
  1. Be a registered voter.
  2. Be a resident of the district that the individual is running to represent.
  3. At least have a high school diploma or a certificate of equivalency.
  4. Not a convicted felon.
  5. Not be a current employee of the district and/or be related to a current employee in that district.


Some states require school board candidates to file a petition to run for a school board member position. Some petitions require a certain number of valid signatures and a filing fee. Then, board member candidates begin to gather support through campaigning. Candidates must comply with all local requirements and regulations for political campaigns (expenses, contributions, campaigning locations, etc.).

School districts may open up elections for specific zones, meaning school board members are elected from certain zones or precincts within the district. This can help districts with ensuring that different areas or neighborhoods within the district have representation on the board. Elections of school board members vary based upon appointments established by the state or district, but are typically every two to four years.


Once you have been elected to the board, you may think that is the final step of how to become a school board member. However, many states and districts have procedures that precede officials taking office.

Elected board members may be required to complete a certificate of election, which outlines the rights and privileges of holding office. Then, new board members may be required to take oath to be sworn into office.

These processes are crucial to maintaining good governance procedures for school boards and other government bodies. After board members have been sworn into their new roles, they can begin to assume their duties and the board can work through restructuring board officer positions.

This is where the real work begins! A good school board member is an individual who is willing to take advantage of opportunities for growth and development (through board training, encouraging relationships, or utilizing new technology) that support accomplishing district goals toward student success.

Leveraging the Community by Diligent, board members can maintain vital documents and materials related to board responsibilities and effectiveness. Meeting agendas, past meeting minutes, policy manuals, strategic plans, goal information, and orientation or training resources are all significant materials related to board functions.

School board members should have the capability of gaining access to these documents from any device or location, securely. Leveraging Community school board members can easily upload, share, and access all of these vital materials.

This level of accessibility allows administrators and board members to share materials to make educated, timely decisions and practice good governance for the betterment of the district. These features support an effective board, leading to greater student achievement.


Serving as a representative for one's community on the school board is an exciting opportunity to make real change and improvement to student achievement. Board members may leverage resources and technology to do their best work to accomplish goals. There are many different factors one must take into consideration before running for election to serve on the school board.

Before inquiring how one can become a school board member, explore one's motivations for serving and what one can positively contribute to the board to better the district. School board members recognize that it is through the work of the entire governing body who are passionate about serving their community that district goals can be achieved.

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Lena Eisenstein
Lena Eisenstein is the former Commercial Alignment Manager for Content Strategy at Diligent.