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What am I Getting Into?

Stacy Bogard

By Stacy Bogard, CAE, MASB Assistant Director of Communications, PR & Marketing

DashBoard, April 25, 2018

When you decided to run for your school board position, I’m sure this question came up a number of times (and maybe still does!). But the decision you made to serve, puts you among more than 4,000 men and women volunteers on boards for the 600+ public school districts in Michigan. While many board members serve multiple terms, the turnover rate is considerable. There are nearly 700 new members elected every even year so it’s important for school boards to be forward looking, long before the candidate petition process begins.

For those of you who will need to fill at least one open seat on your board this year, we're going to walk through the process of recruiting qualified candidates over the next few weeks. First up—what does being a school board member really entail?

Serving on American school boards is a vital and important aspect of our democracy. Every two years, board members are elected by voters to serve four- or six-year terms on local school boards. As these elected members, you are charged to sit in trust for all of your local communities.

So what is the “job description” of a school board member? What does he or she actually do? To understand what a school board member does also requires knowledge of what a school board member does not do—no single board member has any power outside of a legally called school board meeting. When a legally called school board meeting occurs, the school board sits in trust for its entire local community. Subject to some exceptions, a school board has all powers granted by the Michigan Revised School Code, along with those that are necessary for the maintenance and development of the schools that the board controls.

The board must also adopt and enforce all necessary rules for the management and governance of its school district. The board, however, can and does delegate many of its powers and duties to the superintendent through its board policies. With limited exceptions, each board must employ a superintendent who shall have charge of the school district’s administration.

Michigan Revised School Code directs that a school board shall make all decisions pertaining to the employment of the superintendent and direct through policy the superintendent in his or her charge of the administration of the school district. When a school board delegates its powers and duties in this way, it should ensure that the superintendent understands the board’s policy directives and must be prepared to support the superintendent’s recommendations. The school board will monitor this process as it evaluates the superintendent’s performance.

Get on Board

In addition to duties enumerated in the Michigan Revised School Code, effective governance imposes the following responsibilities on the board:

  1. The board clarifies the district’s purpose
  2. The board connects with the community
  3. The board employs a superintendent
  4. The board delegates authority
  5. The board monitors performance
  6. The board takes responsibility for itself

For more information on these responsibilities, please refer to the Roles and Responsibilities of a Board Member document or Board Duties Under the Revised School Code, which is available for purchase in our Bookstore.

Also, check out the Get on Board microsite for information and resources for running for re-election and recruiting qualified candidates. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact MASB at getonboard@masb.org or 517.327.5900.

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