What Does the Board of Trustees do for a Public School District?

Lena Eisenstein

In this article, you will learn:

  • How the board of trustees helps to steer the district

  • Fiscal oversight responsibilities of trustees

  • The board of trustees' relationship with the superintendent

Every public school district is governed by a board of trustees, commonly known as the school board. These boards of trustees are representative of their community, putting the interest of students' futures first.

The board of trustees is comprised of citizens elected from their community making decisions about the local public school system based on the community's expectations, goals, and needs. School boards of trustees are chosen by the public to consider the needs of students and convert them into a vision, policies, and goals that will support student achievement.

Boards of trustees fulfill their role through five major responsibilities. These responsibilities are fundamental to the function of the local school district and can only be accomplished by elected governing officials.

1. Set the direction for the district through a clear vision and goals.

A successful and efficient board of trustees knows that the establishment and implementation of strategic plans is necessary to achieving effective governance. The board of trustees for a public school district should form a vision that is reflective of the needs and desires of the local community. Then, they should work to set and accomplish goals that directly support that vision.

BoardDocs, a cloud-based board management system, features goal-tracking software that allows the board of trustees to establish, measure, and track progress made toward goals. Boards of trustees are also able to share goal progress through the platform.

BoardDocs software allows board of trustee members to customize goal-related content through the board's site. Boards of trustees can link files or documents, assign action items, implement a measurable matrix, and track the time spent on goal-related work.

2. Stay informed regarding policies and governance.

Adopting policies and a strong governance model supports the board of trustees in effectively and efficiently carrying out their responsibilities.

It is imperative that school boards of trustees are aware of the various federal, state and provincial 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 critical that school boards stay abreast of these policies and regulations and how they may impact the school board's actions.

The right software will provide the board of trustees with the tools and security to keep board members informed of policies, as well as remain in alignment with governance practices.

Leveraging BoardDocs, boards of trustees can save documents and other materials related to policies, laws, and regulations with the 'Library' feature. These materials are all searchable by keyword, which can be extremely helpful for new board of trustee members or the public. Training materials can also be housed and shared with board of trustee members within BoardDocs.

3. Hire and evaluate the superintendent.

Boards of trustees can face a lot of pressure and responsibility in hiring a superintendent for 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 district and larger community.

Boards of trustees should seek out software that can support them as they search for a superintendent and carry out evaluations. BoardDocs allows boards of trustees to share documents and links related to superintendent searches. These items can be linked to meeting agendas or be made available to the public.

Documents and other related materials involved in the evaluation of a superintendent should be stored in one centralized platform that provides both security and transparency for the public. Superintendents have the capability to utilize the goal-tracking feature of BoardDocs to build goals that they can connect to tasks for evaluations. The superintendent can also manage the privacy setting of these goals, as well as use these tools to highlight accomplishments in the evaluation or review the goals with their cabinet.

4. 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 board of trustees is one of the board's greatest responsibilities. It ensures that the board of trustees is 'putting their money where their mouth is' when it comes to achieving goals and working towards the vision of the district.

Utilizing BoardDocs, the board of trustees can share and store documents and materials related to the budget and expenses. Contracts, proposals, and other pertinent information can all be stored and easily accessed through the software. The board of trustees can also manage who sees this information, meaning that anything that should only be accessible by the board of trustees would not be available for public viewing.

5. Serve as leaders of the community and as advocates for students, the school district, and public schools.

Boards of trustees can be direct reflections of their community and serve to meet the needs and goals of the local school district. Members of the community are considered to be key stakeholders, and stakeholders have a right to know what the yield is on their investment.

Establishing a vision and achieving goals to work toward that vision is important, but so is cultivating trust and transparency by keeping the public informed. Treating the public with respect and maintaining transparency through sharing relevant information can foster trust between the board of trustees and the local community.

BoardDocs supports this level of engagement and support of the public through features that make it easy for boards of trustees to share information. Paperless meeting agendas, articles, meeting details, previous meeting minutes, and other vital information can all be made public on the school board's site for the community to access.

Goal-setting and tracking can also be viewed by the public through BoardDocs. Boards of trustees can manage different levels of access to maintain information that should only be board-accessible and to share information that is open to the public. BoardDocs features a 'share' button where goal-related updates can be shared to social media or through e-mail.

Boards of trustees of local school districts face difficult decisions and are at the front lines of public criticism. However, serving on the board of trustees can bring a great deal of satisfaction and achievement when driving and sharing in the successes of the district. As representatives and advocates for their community, board trustees prioritize the interest of their students and the public school system. Through foundational responsibilities tied to governance, policies, budgeting, and more, the board of trustees can establish a culture of support and success within the community.

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