This article comes from a zoom call hosted by Fairforall.org or it’s education group. Tanya Simons a school board member (Osseo, MN), who shared her experience communicating with other board members about the role of the school board.. Below is Tanya’s response to some questions that have been raised in communication with current school board members:
I am having a lot of frustrating conversations. I would like some documentation on the role of a school board and the role of the taxpayers and community. I would also like some suggestion on being more effective with these debates:
Assertions I am hearing:
- School boards have three functions which are budget, policy and hiring a superintendent.
- The school board is a governance body, they cannot be involved in day to day activities. They can not make changes to the curriculum.
- Teachers need to be careful when advocating publicly for students because the problems multiply and spill over into funding, staffing and staying fair and consistent. – This is making it nearly impossible for teachers to communicate with the public because almost anything they advocate for can be twisted into a criticism.
1) WRONG. The function of the school board is defined by LEGISLATION not by any consulting organization or any MSBA guidelines. School board authority is specifically defined by legislation. Is is BROAD and intended to be local for the purpose of full local control and authority. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/part/EDUCATION%2520CODE%253A%2520PREKINDERGARTEN%2520-%2520GRADE%252012 Specifically, https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/123B.09
2) Per #1 they have no limitation to their oversight or access to fulfill their legislative duty. As a matter of practical operation, they hire a superintendent for the purpose of management and operation but also with systems of accountability and oversight. The Superintendent’s authority and management in NO WAY supersedes that of the board. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/123B.02. The school board has LEGISLATIVELY defined oversight of curriculum. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/120B.11. Specifically “a system to periodically review and evaluate the effectiveness of all instruction and curriculum,”
3) Teachers have broad free speech in generally advocating for education and the needs of students. They have limited rights as an employee in representing the district in speech. The board is responsible for
“education effectiveness practices that integrate high-quality instruction, rigorous curriculum, technology, and a collaborative professional culture that develops and supports teacher quality, performance, and effectiveness;”
Certainly, teacher voice is necessary and should be sought out in fulfilling this responsibility. Teacher voice is essential to improving the quality of education and their effectiveness.
I would say that you should ask anyone making the assertions you identify to show where in LEGISLATION is indicates these parameters. Because if you ready through the education code there is MUCH MORE legitimacy to the the broad authority of the school board and great detail as to its legislative responsibilities. The board may adopt various models of operation to effectively fulfill its duties but in NO WAY are they LEGALLY BINDING. MSBA and consultants have RECOMMENDED MODELS but they carry NO LEGAL AUTHORITY.