O'Fallon Progress

School board elections are coming up. So what exactly does a school board member do?

John Bute
John Bute

Now that the 2016 presidential election is concluded, most school districts are looking forward to the spring school board elections. According to the Illinois Association of School Boards, “The governance of local school boards, by democratically elected men and women, remains at the heart of two vital United States structures: the public education system and democracy itself. Our public schools are the ties that bind this diverse and pluralistic society into a nation, and that guide this nation to its future. Only our public schools are prepared to serve, without reservation, all students in America and to enable citizens to be active participants in our democracy.”

Every two years, board members are elected by voters to serve two- or four-year terms on local school boards. So what is the “job” of a school board member? What does he or she actually do? To understand what a school board member does also requires knowledge of what a school board member does not do: no single board member has any power outside of a legally called school board meeting. Only within a legally called school board meeting do the members of the board exercise their powers and responsibilities.

Like the vast majority of Illinois school districts, District 104 is governed by a school board consisting of seven members. The major powers and duties of the school board include, but are not limited to:

1. Organizing the board after each consolidated election by electing officers and establishing its regular meeting schedule and, thereafter, taking action during lawfully called meetings to faithfully fulfill the board’s responsibilities in accordance with state and federal law.

2. Formulating, adopting, and modifying board policies, at its sole discretion, subject only to mandatory collective bargaining agreements and state and federal law.

3. Employing a superintendent and other personnel, making employment decisions, dismissing personnel, and establishing an equal employment opportunity policy that prohibits unlawful discrimination.

4. Directing, through policy, the superintendent, in his or her charge of the district’s administration.

5. Approving the annual budget, tax levies, major expenditures, payment of obligations, annual audit, and other aspects of the district’s financial operation; and making available a statement of financial affairs as provided in state law.

6. Entering contracts using the public bidding procedure when required.

7. Providing, constructing, controlling, and maintaining adequate physical facilities; making school buildings available for use as civil defense shelters; and establishing a resource conservation policy.

8. Establishing an equal educational opportunities policy that prohibits unlawful discrimination.

9. Approving the curriculum, textbooks, and educational services.

10. Evaluating the educational program and approving school improvement and district improvement plans.

11. Presenting the district report card and school report card(s) to parents/guardians and the community; these documents report district, school and student performance.

12. Establishing and supporting student discipline policies designed to maintain an environment conducive to learning, including deciding individual student suspension or expulsion cases brought before it.

13. Establishing attendance units within the district and assigning students to the schools.

14. Establishing the school year.

15. Requiring a moment of silence to recognize veterans during any type of school event held at a district school on Nov. 11.

16. Providing student transportation services pursuant to state law.

17. Entering into joint agreements with other boards of education to establish cooperative educational programs or provide educational facilities.

18. Complying with requirements in the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. Specifically, each individual board member must, if an allegation is raised to the member during an open or closed board meeting that a student is an abused child as defined in the act, direct or cause the board to direct the superintendent or other equivalent school administrator to comply with the act’s requirements concerning the reporting of child abuse.

19. Communicating the schools’ activities and operations to the community and representing the needs and desires of the community in educational matters.

20. School board members must also receive training in order to fulfill compliance with state law.

▪  Each board member must complete at least four hours of professional development leadership training in education and labor law, financial oversight and accountability, and fiduciary responsibilities within the first year of his or her first term. This requirement is applicable to board members who are elected after June 13, 2011 or who are appointed to fill a vacancy of at least one year’s duration after that date.

▪  Each board member must complete training on the Open Meetings Act no later than 90 days after taking the oath of office for the first time. After completing the training, each board member must file a copy of the certificate of completion with the board. Training on the Open Meetings Act is only required once.

▪  Each board member must complete a training program on evaluations under the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) before participating in a vote on a tenured teacher’s dismissal using the optional alternative evaluation dismissal process. This dismissal process is available after the district’s PERA implementation date.

If you are interested in being a school board member you must meet the following requirements: be on the date of election or appointment, a United States citizen, at least 18 years of age, a resident of Illinois and the district for at least one year immediately preceding the election, and a registered voter. Reasons making an individual ineligible for board membership include holding an incompatible office and certain types of state or federal employment. A child sex offender, as defined in state law, is ineligible for school board membership.

Although the school board election next April 4, 2017 may seem a long way off, now is the time that candidates are considering their future plans. School board elections are handled by the county clerk or board of election commissioners. For more information, please contact the St. Clair County Clerk’s Office (618-277-6600 ext. 2377). Dec. 12 is the first day to file nominating papers for candidates and Dec. 19 is the last day to file nominating papers for school board candidates.