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Get on Board: About Board Service

What Board Service Is and Isn't

The board's role is governance, a role that is very different from the superintendent's role.

What Do School Boards Do?

The primary function of the school board is to oversee the education of students in the community. The board’s role is governance – providing the vision for the school system and its students and ensuring that system personnel have the resources they need to achieve that vision. The board’s role is very different from the superintendent’s role, which is like a corporate CEO, handling the daily operations of the school system.

The roles of the board and those of the superintendent are spelled out in the Roles & Responsibilities Handbook, which was a collaboration between AASB and the School Superintendents of Alabama. Take a few minutes to look through the handbook so that you can familiarize yourself with the responsibilities of each half of the board-superintendent team.

What School Board Members Found Most Surprising Early On

AASB interviewed several current school board members about what they found most surprising when starting out as new school board members. Many of their observations involved a reality check about what exactly could and could not be done as a board member. 

What School Boards Don’t Do

There is often a misunderstanding of what school boards have the power to do. It’s important to point out that virtually every action of the board requires a recommendation from the superintendent, and the board can’t force the superintendent to make a particular recommendation.

In a nutshell, here’s what boards CANNOT do:

As an individual:

  • Can’t make decisions on behalf of the board or school system. In Alabama, members of the school board have authority only when they sit as a board.

  • Can’t give orders or directives to any staff, including the superintendent.

  • Can’t investigate complaints against staff.
         Tenure law gives board members the role of judge and jury in employee termination or disciplinary actions. That means that you as a board member must be neutral and make decisions based solely on evidence presented at the hearing. Members who have been involved in investigating a complaint would need to recuse themselves from hearings so that there can be no accusations of biased participation.

  • Shouldn’t make decisions based on the best interests of one school, zone, or district.
         The board Code of Conduct makes clear that board members are to make decisions based on what’s best for the system and students as a whole. Once you become a board member, ALL schools in your system become “your schools.”

As a board:

  • Can’t hire or fire system personnel, other than the CSFO and appointed superintendent, without a recommendation from the superintendent.

  • Can’t mandate that the superintendent make a specific recommendation. Alabama law gives only the superintendent power to make recommendations.

  • Can’t make or approve a motion that fundamentally changes the superintendent’s recommendation.


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