Questions for school board candidates

One of the most popular posts on this blog is my list of questions for school superintendent candidates.  Because that list was in such demand, I decided to start a list of generic questions that could be asked of potential school board candidates across America.

School boards in America are responsible for setting policy. In effect, a school board tells its superintendent, “This is what we want to see happen in the district.” The board hires a superintendent to turn the board’s vision and goals into reality. The responsibility for the day-to-day management of the school system rests with the superintendent. Typically a school board evaluates the superintendent at least annually.

Two notes:  (1) There’s no significance to the order of questions under different headings.  The numbers are just for easy reference. (2) Twitter hashtag for discussion of school board issues is #boe

Preparation for board service

1. In what ways have you attempted to prepare yourself for the job of a school board member?

2. What information sources do you rely on for news and analysis of education news and education policy?

3. Approximately how many students in the district qualify for the free and reduced lunch programs? What impact do those figures have on the district’s budget and its academic programs?

4. What are two or three technological learning tools you personally use regularly, and what do these technology tools do for you?

5. Describe two or three learning activities you engage in regularly that provide a model of lifelong learning. How do you make people aware of your ongoing learning activities?

6. In every community and organization there are entrenched interests. Describe a situation in which you had to deal with entrenched interests, and explain how you established a positive working relationship.

7. What is your experience with complicated budgets?

8. If you were to be elected to the school board, what do you think you would be able to contribute to the board operation immediately?

9. For boards that are authorized to establish charter schools: What do you know about charter schools? On the whole, do you think charter schools expand educational opportunities for students or reduce them by siphoning off money from the non-charter public schools?

Vision for the district

1. Today’s students are different from students 20 years ago. What are three issues arising from the differences in today’s students that the school board might need to deal with by creating district policy?

2. What are three challenges for which this district must prepare the class of 2024?

3. As you look at the local community, what employment opportunities are available here for which the school ought to be preparing its graduates?

4. We frequently hear that high school graduates must be “college and career ready.” What would distinguish a graduate of this district who was college and career ready from one who was not?

5. Aside from educating children, what, if any, responsibilities do the school board and school district have to the community?

Awareness of the board member’s role

1. When you attend a board meeting, whether it’s the city council or the school board or some other public body, what behaviors do you consider indications that the board is doing a good job?

2. If a parent were to come to you with a concern about a teacher, for example, or a teacher with a concern about an administrator, what would you see your role as a board member to be in resolving that issue?

3. Drawing on what you know about the roles and responsibilities of a board member, if you were elected, what are the first three challenges you’d face and how would you address them?

4. All human beings have some biases as a result of their experiences and personal preferences. What are two or three of your biases that you would need to guard against allowing to affect your judgment on matters before the school board?

5. What do you see as legitimate ways for a school board to support the district’s teacher evaluation process?

6. What criteria would you apply when making decision as a school board member about the best course of action? Please use an example from your personal or business experience to show  how you apply those criteria when making a decision that affects people other than yourself.

7. Schools have all sorts of special programs aimed at achieving a variety of goals and objectives. How do you determine when a program has been successful?

8. What role, if any, do you see school board members playing in advocating for support for education and learning outside the board meetings in the community or beyond the local community?

9. For boards whose members represent geographic areas of the district: If the wishes of the residents you were elected to represent clash with the wishes of the majority of the board members, how do you resolve the conflict?

Awareness of district assets and needs

1. What in your opinion is the single biggest asset of this school district and its single biggest liability?

2. Of the ways currently used by the district to inform the community about academic progress the district is making, which one in your opinion is most the effective and which is the least effective?

3. What, if any, community assets do you think the school is not using to their fullest potential?

4. What demographic and economic trends in the school district do you see as likely to have significant impact on the school’s program and thus its budget, in the next 10-15 years?

School budgetary concerns

1. How would you enlist taxpayer support for school spending or for bond issues, particularly from taxpayers with no children in public schools?

2. What should be the board’s policy with regard to allowing homeschooled children in the district to participate in extracurricular activities ?

3. In cases where parents who live outside the district wish to have their children attend school in this district, should the board charge those parents tuition? If you think tuition should be charged, do you believe their should be any exceptions to the policy?

4. What in your opinion are the three to five most important groups of stakeholders in the school district?

5. What capital needs does the district have right now? How do you think those needs should be addressed?

6. Many student groups within the school population have identifiable support groups within the wider community. It is fairly common for booster groups to claim that one group is getting a portion of discretionary funding that’s disproportionately large in comparison to the number of students involved.  If such a situation were called to your attention, as a board member what action, if any, would you feel would be appropriate for you to take?

7. For school boards that depend on a county or other taxing agency for funding: Since the school board cannot raise revenue for itself, how would you facilitate the process of securing necessary funds for the school district from the county (or other taxing agency)?

Are there questions that should be asked that aren’t on this list? Add them as a comment here or tweet your ideas @LindaAragoni with the hashtag #boe.


Thanks to these folks who suggested topics or resources and prodded me into starting this list: to Teri Pinney , @teripinney, a board candidate and now a school board member;  Jerry Blumengarten, @cybraryman1; Ted Bauer of learningmatters.tv,  @lmtv; and Michael Josefowicz, @toughLoveforx.   Photo credit: “Passage” uploaded by tripeak

[fixed broken link 2016-01-31]

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