Episode 7 | School Boards 101

Sep 24, 2022

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Karen shares all she has gleaned along her personal journey as a Kitchen Table Activist, and in this podcast, she’ll provide the basics about the role of local school boards, and how you can successfully interact with your local board to bring about impactful change.

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Okay. So today we're going to talk about something really important, and that is school boards and how they work. We're doing a whole series on a variety of issues surrounding school boards. So this podcast is going to deal with the very basic of what a school board is, how it works, and how you can access the information. Then we're going to go on further about some of the obstacles you might run into when you are going before the school board. And so after about 25 years of attending school board meetings, sometimes till two and three o'clock in the morning, I have a lot of insight as to how we can be more effective as the keyboard warriors that go before these school boards. But it's important that we understand the basics.

Now, I'm going to talk in generalities because every state is different, but in general, the basics are the same.

So there may be some exceptions. For instance, some school boards have five members, some might have nine. So those are the kinds of things that are going to be a little bit different in each state. But the rest of it is the same: what their roles and responsibilities are, how to approach them, what they can and can't deal with.

 

And so, the first thing I'm going to talk about, I want to talk specifically about local school boards. So every state has a state Board of Education, and there's about four different models as to how those state Boards of Education are run We're going to talk about the Board of Education at the local level, because that is where the most change can happen. And that's where the keyboard warriors, the Kitchen Table Activists, the Esther 4:14 club gals are going out and making a difference.

So the first thing to know, and again, this is a generality, but local school boards are elected. So, they're elected by the people, working for the people. They are made up of community members, people who attend school board meetings. I think parents are waking up now after COVID and seeing that, wow, I should have maybe run for the school board, because right now a lot of progressive activists and/or teacher union people are the ones who are sitting on your school board. And so this is somewhere where we can really, really make some effective change. So, the voters vote on their Board of Education. And so the voters, the people are supposed to be the ones in charge.

 

As I talk about that, often I hear from grandparents or even homeschool moms who happen to be usually pretty involved in the local school board. Well, hey, I don't have kids in the district. Can I still speak, can I still weigh in? Absolutely. It's your tax dollars. We need you to be at that Board of Education meeting, you are a voter. The Board of Education works for you, the people, and this is government at its most grass roots. The community you live and work in is your board of education. And so it's important, probably the most important vote that you cast in a local election. So, the voters elect the Board of Education. It's always an odd number. So it'll be three, five, seven, nine, because they want to make sure there's not a tie if it comes to a vote.

 

So, the Board of Education. What do they do? If you're a board member, what is it that you do? Well, you select the superintendent and that's what they call it in most places. In the South sometimes they call it the director of schools. And so there's a little bit of a different name, but basically they're the head executive. So they're like the governor of the schools. And so the Board of Education, they select the superintendent.

It's the Board of Education that adopt policies, budgets, they set goals for everybody. They provides the support. They're supposed to ensure accountability. They're supposed to be a liaison to the public to represent the public to the schools, and then to let the public know what the schools are and aren't doing, they really set the direction for it. And what has happened, and I think what a lot of parents have seen after COVID, was that our boards were just rubber stamping whatever the administration wanted to do. And our Boards of Education were not setting and adopting policy, were not holding our administration, our teachers, or our superintendent accountable, and were doing nothing, but sitting up there getting a stipend and being a rubber stamp to whatever it is the superintendent or director of schools wanted.

 

That is not how it's supposed to be. It's not how it's supposed to be at all. So you've got the voters, then the Board of Education and then a superintendent and the superintendent is hired by the Board of Education. They are the ones that are in charge of kind of day to day, hiring staff. They're the ones that take the policies and the big picture goals that the Board of Education comes up with and they implement the policies and goals. And so I use this as an example, let's say the school board decides that we are going to have one free day every three months, and teachers can do whatever they want in the classroom. That's a silly example, but it's an easy one. So the board sets that policy. It would be the superintendent that says, okay, for that day, these are the rules or parameters I'm going to put around it.

 

It's more of an administrative regulation. You can do whatever you want, but you need to submit your lesson plans to me, the superintendent, four weeks in advance, or you've got to notify the parents. I mean, the day to day of how the board's policy is implemented comes from the superintendent. And that is where the most confusion has been coming from. And I'm going to get into this in future podcasts. We have Boards of Education, and it's happening all over the nation from the West coast to the East coast, red states and blue states, where the Board of Education says, my hands are tied, or I have to do whatever the health department says or no, our superintendent wants it this way. It is the Board of Education that is hired by the voters. They are the ones that are responsible.

And we're going to get into details a little more in another podcast on governance policies, because that's what I hear the most of and it drives me crazy. They say, well, we need a new governance policy because ours doesn't allow our board to do anything. No, go look at the governance policy. And like I said, we're going to do a podcast on this, but we are going to really explain how the board does have the power. They just like to act as if they don't because they like to be a rubber stamp.

 

So, this would be a good time to remind you if you're listening to this podcast somewhere else, you need to go to www.kitchentableactivist.com and sign up so that you're getting our activist planner. So along with today's podcast, we have a handout that allows you to find out who your school board member is, write it out, write their contact information and put that into your own personalized student planner or activist planner. So, it's your own toolkit. So no matter if you're in Missouri or Florida, California or Tennessee, you have an activist toolkit, you have this planner.

 

And so you go to the website and you don't have to listen to the podcast there, although you can, but if you listen to it, you can then download the pieces that go into your planner. My goal, our goal is so that you will have a full planner after 12 months of listening to the variety of podcasts that make your own activist toolkit that you can share with others. And that's what's really, really important. It's that we are coming into a new time. People have heard me say it before that I believe we're called to such a time as this, that we are living through history. At first, I think we all saw COVID as this big obstacle, but it ended up being a huge opportunity for us to see what was going on in the classrooms, what was happening at our local school boards. And now we want to help equip you to go in, let your voice be heard and reclaim your parental rights and reclaim our schools.

So we're going to do a variety of school board topics, but this was the basics. This was just school board 101, what is it? How are they done? Who can go? Who votes for them? But the important thing to remember is the voters.

They work for the voters, and they are the authority makers, the setter of goals.

And they are the people that adopt policies for the school district based on what the voters want. The superintendent and the rest of the school district employees work for them. The school board is not an extension of the teacher's union. The teachers and superintendents all have a union that advocate for them. The Board of Education is to advocate for the voters, the parents, and the students. And we need to get back to making sure that's what our Boards of Education are doing. So thank you for listening.

 

~~ Karen

 

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