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What's the purpose of a school board?

I blogged yesterday about the role public comments play at school board meetings. Today I’m following up with an answer for Kandis, who commented on the entry to ask for a defined purpose of a school board.

To answer her question, I called Jeff Mills, the new executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.

I’ll start with his response about what a school board is: a local governing body of a school district whose members are either elected or appointed to represent the public. Now on to what they do.

“One of their main functions is to hire a superintendent or a CEO to run that organization. … Their other major responsibility is setting policy,” Mills told me.

He went on to explain: “If I’m a superintendent, I can set a directive or I can set an interoffice activity, but the board is responsible to set legal and legislative type policy to manage the district. … A school board wouldn’t necessarily be involved in the day-to-day operations — that’s what the superintendent or CEO is for.”

Now if you’re wondering just what types of policies he’s referring to, don’t worry, he elaborated. Such policy responsibilities can include everything from school safety to budgeting and expenditures, he said.

Oklahoma City School Board meeting, Sept. 2, 2008 / By Wendy K. Kleinman, The Oklahoman 

Mills also talked about the public comments issue that started this conversation.

“There are public participation policies out there, and some of those may limit (comments) to three minutes or so — each one will vary — and they may limit the number of people who may speak on one topic,” Mills said, “for the simple reason that if you have no order you could be there all night.”

UPDATE: To answer a question this entry prompted, school board members’ phone numbers and addresses, at least for Oklahoma City Public Schools, are available to the public. They are listed on this site.

Keep the comments and questions coming!

Wendy Kleinman
Education Reporter

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