Board members admit that the most surprising discoveries about board service are the amount of time it takes to be an effective board member and the variety of concerns with which the board deals. Often, the abrupt change from citizen to board member status catches newly elected board members off guard. They are suddenly bombarded with concerns and complaints from friends, acquaintances, and people they’ve never met before. They can no longer go out in the community without being approached by one or more citizens sharing school district concerns. And even when you tell them that your authority to act is limited to board meetings, they’ll see you as a 24/7 board member.
The board member and his/her family and possibly business will inevitably be affected by this investment of time and talent in the schools. If you learn to manage the demands of public service on your private life, board service can be rewarding and enjoyable. Most boards meet once or twice a month with a typical meeting lasting between two and four hours; emergencies may prompt additional special meetings. Board members may also have to attend committee meetings that require even further preparation and time. The board member’s involvement in community affairs and attendance at school programs and events accounts for even more dedicated time.
Many newly elected board members are also surprised by the huge amount of board-related paperwork they must read and the multitude of new information they must learn in a very short time. It’s not uncommon to hear board members state that it takes them several hours prior to a board meeting to review their board packet thoroughly and to get all their questions answered.
Without question, there is a huge time commitment required to serve on a board of education. However, experienced board members often find tremendous satisfaction from their public service. Still, anyone running for the school board should be well aware that they will be dedicating many hours to fulfilling the responsibilities of their new position.