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Understanding the School Board

Helping Our Kids Shine: Understanding Your School Board

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What is the primary function of a school board? The school board serves as the advocate for educational excellence for a community’s youth and puts those interests first. The policies school boards make dictate the standards and philosophy by which schools are run and the criteria used to judge whether they are being run well. This responsibility often entails difficult choices, self-sacrifice (it is a volunteer position), and exposure to public criticism. However, it also brings a great deal of personal satisfaction in sharing with parents, staff, and students their academic successes. This crucial responsibility and the closeness of trustees to the voters make the local school board the purest example of democracy our society presents.

What are the key responsibilities of a school board?
(1) to ensure the creation of a vision and goals for the district and evaluate district success,
(2) to adopt policies that guide district actions,
(3) to hire a superintendent to serve as administrator of the district and evaluate his/her success,
(4) to approve an annual budget consistent with the district vision, and
(5) to communicate the district’s vision and success to the community.
In addition to these responsibilities, each year Waller ISD Trustees set specific Board Goals for the district.

Who is eligible to serve as a school board member? Anyone who is
(1) a qualified and registered voter,
(2) a resident of the district for six months before the filing deadline,
(3) a resident of the state for 12 months before the deadline.

When and how are school board members elected? School Board elections may only be held on the first Saturday in May or the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of odd-numbered years.  Waller ISD School Board elections are held on the first Saturday in May.  School Board members are elected by popular vote. In most districts, including Waller ISD, the members serve three-year staggered terms so that the entire board is not up for election at the same time.

Is special training required for school board members? School board members are required by Texas law and Commissioner of Education rule to participate in three types of continuing education: (1) an orientation to local district policy and to the laws affecting public education in Texas, (2) an annual team building activity, and (3) a specified number of hours each year in areas of special need.

Can citizens attend school board meetings? School boards must meet in compliance with the Texas Open Meetings Act and make public records available pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act and Texas Public Information Act. Citizens are welcomed at all school board meetings, except in a few legally specified circumstances calling for closed meetings.

Can citizens participate in school board meetings? Most school boards allow citizen participation and, in order to allow adequate time for important board business, have established policies regarding how and when citizens contribute input. 

Waller ISD policy WALLER ISD-BED(L) sets out public participation in Waller ISD Board meetings:

LIMIT ON PARTICIPATION - Audience participation in Waller ISD School Board meetings is limited to the portion of the meeting designated for that purpose (patron presentations). At all other times during a board meeting, the audience shall not enter into discussion or debate on matters being considered by the Board, unless recognized by the presiding officer. No presentation shall exceed three minutes. Delegations of more than five persons shall appoint one person to present their views before the Board.

At regular meetings the Board shall allot 30 minutes to hear persons who desire to make comments to the Board. Persons who wish to participate in this portion of the meeting shall sign up with the presiding officer or designee before the meeting begins and shall indicate the topic about which they wish to speak.

BOARD RESPONSE - Specific factual information or recitation of existing policy may be furnished in response to inquiries, but the Board shall not deliberate or decide regarding any subject that is not included on the agenda posted with notice of the meeting.

COMPLAINTS AND CONCERNS – Complaints and concerns for which other resolution channels are provided shall be directed through those channels. The presiding officer or designee shall determine whether a person who wished to address the Board has attempted to solve the matter administratively. If not, the person shall be directed to the appropriate policy.”

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