What is a School Board?
The local Board of Education is a policy-making legislative body and the individual member is an official of the state. Except during an official meeting, a board member has no more power, authority or jurisdiction over school matters than any other citizen in the community. A School Board’s primary duty is to provide the opportunity for the best and most appropriate education for all children entrusted in its care. Tennessee currently has 136 public school districts.
In order to be elected to a Tennessee School Board, one must be:
- A citizen of Tennessee
- At least 18 years old
- A resident of the school district
- A high school graduate (or G.E.D.)
- A registered voter in the county
The two basic premises of school board operations are:
- The Board is a corporate body. The authority of a Board member includes expressing an opinion and casting a vote in a Board meeting. Outside a Board meeting, a Board member has no authority over school matters.
- The Board is a policy-making body. The Board speaks through policy. Matters the Board chooses not to address through policy are left to the discretion of the Director of Schools. School Boards make policy and Directors of Schools carry out the policy.
- In addition, the legislature has specified the following mandatory duties:
Management and Control: The Board of Education is to manage and control all public schools established under its jurisdiction. This gives the board of education the primary authority over school matters, but management responsibilities are delegated to the Director of Schools.
Employment: The Board has the duty to employ the Director of Schools, set salaries for employees, grant tenure, approve evaluation plans for employees and hold dismissal hearings when necessary.
Purchasing: The Board may purchase supplies, furniture, fixtures and materials of every kind. All expenditures for such purchases estimated to exceed $5,000 must be made by competitive bids.
Budget Preparation: The Board of Education is required to prepare a budget and to submit it to the appropriate legislative body.
Students: The Board of Education has several duties regarding students. The Education Code gives the board the duty to discipline students after a hearing as well as the duty to establish standards and policies governing student attendance.
Policies: Local Boards of Education are required to compile and publish an official policy manual.
Elections: FSSD School Board members are elected at-large to staggered four-year terms of office.
Mandated School Board Training: State Board of Education Rules and Regulations require each member of a local Board of Education to participate annually in seven hours of training provided through the School Board Academy. All Board members must complete the four basic core modules (Policy, Board/Superintendent Relations, Vision and Advocacy) within a four-year period after assuming office. Any local Board member who fails to attend training may be removed from office. New School Board members must attend a two-day orientation session sponsored by the state Department of Education, plus a seven-hour training session in their first year.
(The responsibilities outlined above are as stated by the Tennessee School Boards Association)