The Southwestern CSD Board of Education currently has a vacant seat that will be filled by appointment. If you think you may be interested, this position would last from the date of appointment until the Annual Budget Vote and Election on May 16, 2023, at which point you may decide to run for a three-year term. Any interested candidate should email their resume to District Clerk Pam SaGurney no later than Friday, November 11, 2022.
Running for School Board: What All Prospective School Board Members Should Know
Commitment to Public Education
A school board member takes on one of the most important citizen responsibilities: overseeing the education of the community’s youth. In these challenging times for public education, school boards are seeking men and women who find excitement and satisfaction in confronting tough challenges and working collegially to rise above them and help students in their communities succeed.
The board of education is a uniquely American institution. It oversees and manages the community’s public school system. It ensures the public schools are flexible and responsive to the needs of the community.
School boards are comprised of volunteers within the community who dedicate their time to better public education. Except for those in Yonkers and New York City, board members are elected.
The size of a school board depends on the type of school district, but generally ranges between three and nine members. The Southwestern CSD school board has seven members. Terms are staggered so all board positions are never open at the same time.
Responsibilities of a Board Member
With schoolchildren always their ultimate focus, school board members act officially at the board table, working with other board members to serve students and accomplish the following:
- Create a shared vision for the future of education
- Set the direction of the school district to achieve the highest student performance
- Provide rigorous accountability for student achievement results
- Develop a budget and present it to the community, aligning district resources to improve achievement
- Support a healthy school district culture for work and learning
- Create strategic partnerships with the community stakeholders
- Build the district’s progress through continuous improvement
- Adopt and maintain current policies
- Hire and evaluate the superintendent
- Ratify collective bargaining agreements
- Maintain strong ethical standards
Characteristics of a Board Member
- Effective Communicator: Can describe what he or she wants and describe what others want; a good listener
- Consensus Builder: Capable of working toward decisions that all can support and willing to compromise to achieve goals
- Community Participant: Enjoys meeting a variety of people, can identify the community’s key communicators and reaches out to the community
- Decision Maker: Is comfortable making decisions and can support group decision-making
- Information Processor: Can organize priorities and schedules to handle large amounts of verbal and written information
- Leader: Willing to take risks, be supportive of board colleagues, district staff and community
- Team Player: Helps promote the board’s vision and goals
School board candidates must be U.S. citizens, at least 18 years old, qualified voters in the school district, and residents of their districts continuously for one year. They cannot live in the same household with a family member who is also a member of the same school board.
Once elected, you will be required by New York State law to fulfill mandatory training within your first year of service. This includes fiscal oversight training and governance skills training. The New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) provides convenient online courses and regional academies to fulfill these requirements and to further your knowledge of public education and your responsibilities as a board member.
Frequently Asked Questions
Would I be a good school board member?
- You value public education.
- You are deeply concerned about all students in your school district.
- You are both an effective speaker and a good listener.
- You can work effectively with fellow school board members in a group decision-making process.
What does a school board do?
In New York State, school boards:
- Propose an annual budget to voters.
- Create policies that guide all aspects of district functioning. Policies can serve to comply with legal requirements, provide notice of rights/responsibilities, articulate values, and set rules unique to the district on issues that are locally decided.
- Set goals (including goals involving student achievement) and evaluate progress.
- Make key decisions including: acting on personnel actions recommended by the superintendent; adopting the school calendar; approving curricula and textbooks; and approving purchases.
- Hold public forums on the budget, provide required budget notices and otherwise engage and communicate with the public.
- Set the district’s priorities and positions in collective bargaining.
- Form contractual agreements. These include purchases, articulation agreements with colleges and labor contracts.
- Make decisions involving legal actions, including responding to claims related to student or teacher discipline, tenure, special education, bullying, harassment and discrimination, among other topics.
How much time is required?
The Southwestern Board of Education typically meets twice a month, and board members have access to digital materials to review before each meeting. Board members are also expected to participate in committee meetings, work sessions and annual or semi-annual retreats. Furthermore, New York State law requires you to complete six hours of financial training during your first year in office.
I have a relative who works in the district. Can I be a school board member?
Yes; however, before voting on any teaching appointment that involves a relative by blood or marriage, board members should disclose the relationship. In such cases, the board members may vote but a two-thirds supermajority is required for the appointment to be effective.
As a board member, can I be held personally liable for legal claims against the board or the school district?
Generally, this should not be a concern. School board members cannot be held liable for actions taken in good faith and within the scope of their authority. A governing board member is not immune from liability, however, if he or she:
- Acts outside the scope of his or her authority.
- Knows (or should have known) that an action violates a person’s constitutional rights.
- Engages in criminal activity.
- Has a conflict of interest in violation of state law.
- Commits an intentional tort, such as assault.
- Violates the state open meeting law.
School districts typically have insurance policies that provide for defense and indemnification, providing a shield from personal liability. Boards also have legal counsel and should consult with them as appropriate.