School Board Committees

Lesson Progress:

The school board has the power to form committees of three types:

Standing – Standing committees are permanent bodies. The board’s most important standing committee is the budget or finance committee, which reviews the annual budget for the board to approve, monitors expenses throughout the year, proposes alternative or more efficient use of funds, etc. Other standing committees might include a curriculum committee, a legislative committee for drafting key legislative positions to present to state representatives and senators, an insurance committee (for school property, for example), and a committee for monitoring student achievement.

Special – Special committees are temporary bodies created to study or address a particular issue or topic.

Advisory – Advisory committees, which are composed of interested citizens rather than board members, offer input or recommendations to the board on a given topic, such as school health or after-school activities for children.

Committees meet at various intervals throughout the year, depending on their assigned areas of responsibility. Committees cannot make binding decisions; they may only present recommendations to the board.

School boards meet on a regular schedule, usually monthly or bimonthly. All meetings are open to the public except when the board is in executive session (a members-only gathering for discussion of board-confidential business). In recent years, many school boards have made an effort to publicize meetings through local public television channels or by live streaming on the Internet. The board sets aside some time at each meeting for public comment, which may include participation by students, parents, or other citizens. Anyone wishing to comment at a board meeting must usually notify the clerk ahead of time and submit his or her comments in writing. The president of the board presides over the public comment period to ensure order.

The school board clerk takes minutes of each meeting and makes them available to the public uploading electronic versions online. Many school boards now have their own websites and use them to give updates on board activities, and provide links to meeting minutes and agendas, the board policy manual, meeting schedules, and other relevant information.

The Superintendent – Usually contracted by the school board, the superintendent is the chief administrator and oversees all the schools in the district. The superintendent’s job is sometimes likened to that of a CEO—he or she manages all aspects of school district business. The superintendent is responsible for implementing all directives handed down by the school board and for accomplishing the board’s long- and short-term goals for the district.

The superintendent has direct oversight of the school principals within the district as well as food service directors, facility and operation managers, administrative personnel, and other staff. He or she also oversees enrollment, curriculum development, and other matters directly relating to teachers and students. The superintendent regularly reports to the board on district activities, and once a year gives a presentation to the board on the district’s overall status and makes budget recommendations. The board, however, has final say in all matters relating to the superintendent’s authority, and it must approve any of the superintendent’s recommendations before they can take effect.

Budget – Administering the local education budget is one of the school board’s most significant responsibilities. The size of the budget depends on the size of the district, the number of schools, and local enrollment numbers. The education budget includes everything from teacher salaries to building maintenance to extracurricular activities for students. This budget is usually funded through a mixture of state funds, federal funds, local property taxes, and grants from institutions. At the beginning of the fiscal year, the board determines how much money it will need to meet district goals and operational costs for the coming year. Many school boards have to submit their budget to another governing body, such as a county commission, for approval. The two boards usually then must collaborate to determine the fine points of funding the budget.