5 Ways to Connect with Your School Board

Before the pandemic, most people didn’t think about school boards very often. That’s all changed as…

By Hana Beach

Before the pandemic, most people didn’t think about school boards very often. That’s all changed as families and communities realize how many policies and decisions school boards make. And now, with the availability of historic federal COVID relief funds the impact of school boards is even greater. This week, as many people head to the polls to elect new school board members in their districts, we highlight resources to help you build relationships with your school board and further educate others about the power they have to make meaningful change in communities. We hope you’ll read and share these with anyone looking for more info on school boards and why they matter. Ready? Give me five!

Who serves on your school board, and what exactly do they do? Get to know the specifics so you can build relationships on the issues that matter most.

Why It Matters: In general, school boards are filled with neighbors and community members committed to improving schools. Use our school board look up tool to see the members of your local board. Then check out our resource Demystifying School Boards: What Do School Boards Do? for a detailed look at a school board’s specific duties, including:

  • Hiring and evaluating the superintendent
  • Making decisions on school openings and closings
  • Approving textbooks and curriculum materials
  • Setting the annual school calendar
  • Determining spending priorities

Extra Credit: Sleepy school board elections are the newest political battlegrounds

As a teacher, you’re the expert on how district policy actually plays out in the classroom. Share that insider perspective with board members to collaborate on structural change. 

Why It Matters: Many school board members may not spend time in schools on a regular basis. You can offer board members a look into the real needs and experiences of your school community—a perspective that will inform the decisions they make. Build relationships with your school board by:

  • Inviting board members to participate in school community events
  • Opening professional development sessions to observation from school board members
  • Forming a school board advisory committee for regular consultations

Extra Credit: Sleepy school board elections are the newest political battlegrounds

Your presence at the local school board meeting can have a big impact—from testifying on issues that matter to you and your students, to showing solidarity with your community. 

Why It Matters: Most school boards meet once or twice a month. These meetings are open to anyone, and usually include time for public comments. You can just observe, or testify on an issue that matters to you. Either way, your presence is powerful! Use this XQ guide to prepare to attend a meeting, with strategies like:

  • Finding meeting agendas in advance on your school board’s website
  • Using your experience as a teacher to support your testimony
  • Introducing yourself to board members after the meeting
  • Asking questions!

Extra Credit: Tips for Presenting to School Boards | ACLU of Washington

One of the major responsibilities of school boards is to set spending priorities. As schools receive historic ARP funding, there’s never been a better time to join the conversation. 

Why It Matters: ARP ESSER funding is an opportunity to transform high schools, and districts have a lot of flexibility in how they invest funds. Use your voice to advocate for investments that center students, lead to real change, and prioritize high school. Every district’s needs will be different, but we’ve come up with some general priorities to get you started:

  • Improve critical high school infrastructure
  • Engage in community-led design of high schools
  • Redesign the daily learning experience for students
  • Ensure all students are prepared for college, career, and life after graduation

Extra Credit: How School Boards Can Support Districts to Adopt Quality Instructional Materials

For students looking to have their voices heard on decisions that affect their daily lives, the school board is a fantastic place to start.

Why It Matters: Take learning beyond the classroom by encouraging your students to get involved with the school board. Students can learn about local government, craft evidence-based arguments, and build relationships within the community. And, they can make real change! Student Voice offers a roadmap for how students can engage school boards, including:

  • Identifying changes they’d like to see in education
  • Researching their proposed changes
  • Testifying at board meetings
  • Joining the board as a student representative
  • Petitioning their school board

Extra Credit: Increasing Student Voice in Local Schools and Districts

We are calling on all students 13-21 to join the nation’s largest student billboard challenge. Students will explore what it means to articulate visually their hopes and dreams, and how to leverage their creative visions for meaningful changemaking. Top submissions will have their art featured on a billboard in their community.

Check out the Billboard Challenge at the XQ Challenge site.