School Boards & Community
There are a total of five school boards within OSSU serving six schools in six towns across four counties. Each board has specific responsibilities based on Vermont law and individual school district charters. Some boards have developed websites to remain in communication with their communities.
Each school board is the Board of Trustees for education on behalf of its community. It is entrusted with assuring that the young people of the community receive a high quality education and that taxpayers receive a positive return on their investment.
Role of a School Board
The Vermont School Board Association outlines seven main roles and related responsibilities of school boards, summarized below:
- Create a Vision
- Establish Policies
- Hire a Superintendent
- Monitor Progress
- Develop a Budget
- Engage With the Community
- Other Responsibilities
The OSSU board hires the superintendent to manage the school district. School boards support the superintendent’s efforts to achieve the vision and holds the superintendent accountable for results. School boards provide the latitude for the school administration to do its job and to be accountable for the results within established board policies.
The board is accountable to the community for outcomes, particularly in the areas of student development and achievement. It needs to decide on the indicators that need to be monitored on a regular basis through a variety of mechanisms such as internal reports, external reports, and direct observation and inspection. It may also determine what external benchmarks it will use to compare local data and information to further assist in answering the questions, “How are we doing?” and “How do we know?”
School boards provide overall guidance for budget priorities as well as outside parameters for budget development. How does the budget reflect the vision and the values of the district? Details of budget development are mostly delegated to the superintendent and administration, but boards are closely involved in every stage of the budget development process. Boards are also responsible for regularly monitoring the overall financial health of their districts.
Boards have additional specific duties that support the overall operation of the schools. In a number of areas around personnel issues or student-specific concerns, the board often serves as a quasi-judicial board to resolve disputes if they are appealed after action by administrators. In addition, boards are the entities that are authorized to collectively bargain contracts with school district employees.
Want to Join a School Board?
School board membership is a rewarding and challenging form of public service. It requires a commitment of time and energy, thoughtful deliberation, and clear communication. Here are a few details for community members seeking to become a school board director.
- Why Serve On The School Board?
- Officers & Committees
- How To Get Elected Or Appointed
- Additional Considerations
School board directors serve their community for many different reasons. A common thread, however, is that they want all children to have excellent, meaningful educational experiences so that they can become engaged and productive members of thriving communities, whether here at home or around the globe.
School board directors expect a lot from our schools. As education in Vermont continues to face numerous challenges, such as declining enrollment and high property taxes, school board members can perform a critical role in providing community-based leadership on educational issues and decisions.
In Vermont, a board member should be willing to serve and must be a legal voter in the school district. There is actually more guidance about ineligibility, what makes a person not eligible to serve on a school board:
- Under the age of 18
- Not a resident in the school district in which the individual is seeking office
- A resident of an unorganized town, grant or gore
- Regularly employed by the school district he or she serves or by a school district within the supervisory union
- The holder of a simultaneous position as an auditor, first constable, collector of taxes, town treasurer, town agent, or town manager
- The spouse of a school board member may not be the town auditor
Each board has three officer positions that assume additional responsibilities as well as committee memberships to fill:
- Board Chair: Responsible for leading at meetings of the board and ensuring the integrity of the board's policies and processes
- Board Vice Chair: Responsible for leading meetings in the Chair's absence and other duties as assigned by the board
- Board Clerk: Responsible for examining claims against the district for school expenses and to sign orders on behalf of the full board authorizing the district treasurer to make payments as approved; keeper of all permanent records of the proceedings of the school board
- Member: Responsible for attending all meetings, reading all materials in advance, engaging with community and being an active, voting member on the school board
In addition, school board members will likely at one time or another serve on one or more committees in order to support larger, more in-depth projects of the board or supervisory union.
The answer to this question depends on the school district. In some cases, a candidate for school board can be nominated from the floor during the annual school district meeting and votes are cast by voice.
In cases where the district uses Australian Ballot, a candidate may secure a place on the ballot by submitting a petition with the signatures of thirty qualified voters (or one percent of the total number of legal voters if that number is less than thirty) to the municipal clerk by 5:00 pm on the sixth Monday preceding the day of election. A candidate may launch a write-in campaign if the date for submitting petitions has passed.
When there is a vacancy, school boards can appoint a qualified person by majority vote to fill a vacancy until an election at a special or annual meeting is held. A record thereof shall be made in the office of the town clerk.
Candidates that are elected must be sworn in by the town clerk before attending their first meeting as a school board director. Additionally, members are required to attend specific events. For example, OSSU hosts a school board director training annually to help new board members get up to speed on their role, responsibilities, and current topics in their district and the supervisory union.