The School Board

Tennessee school board members are elected by the community to make and to oversee critical decisions about the school district. Though the State Department of Education is the primary responsible agent for overseeing education in Tennessee, local school boards are charged with overseeing the governance of education with each district or school community. School boards work with the individual needs of their district, following guidelines and laws set forth by the federal and state governments, the State Department of Education, and the State Board of Education.

The relationship of the school board to voters and to superintendents is outlined in the following chart:


Some basic responsibilities of a school board follow:

  • Adopt goals; set priorities; monitor success
  • Adopt policies
  • Hire and evaluate the superintendent or director of schools
  • Adopt a budget
  • Communication with the community

Adopt Goals; Set Priorities; Monitor Success
The school board’s adopted goals and priorities set the tone for the entire district. With positive attention to maintaining high standards and an array of quality opportunities for students and employees, the board is able to see ongoing growth that builds a stronger community of learners. The board conducts regular meetings during which the members review updates from administrators on the state of the district’s services, facilities, and goals.

The board has a vision statement shared with all stakeholders to guide it when setting goals.

An example of a vision statement is:
“All students will be globally competitive, lifelong learners, and responsible citizens.”

Examples of goals to support the vision are:

  • Improve Achievement for All Students
  • Support Faculty and Staff as Leaders and Innovators of Learning
  • Partner with Our District and Community for Student Success
  • Improve Technology as a Means of Supporting Staff and Students

Adopt policies
School boards are the primary group that determines how the district functions because they consider and adopt the policies that are followed throughout the schools. The policies they approve follow federal and state laws, so all decisions made within the district are in compliance with those laws. Once district policy is determined, the school leaders make decisions within the scope of what is allowed.

Hire and Evaluate the Superintendent or Director of Schools
The school board’s decision on whom to appoint as superintendent or director of schools is one of the most critical actions they take. Having the right person in place to carry out the approved policies with leadership that fits all stakeholders makes the operation of the educational system work effectively and efficiently. While the board ensures that the district operates under the law in the best interest of every person in the community directly or indirectly involved in the school system, it is the superintendent who is the face of the school system. The board works carefully to make the best selection for all involved. Each year, as part of their responsibility to keep the direction of the district positive and effective, the board evaluates the superintendent’s work toward achieving the district goals.

Adopt a Budget
The superintendent and his or her leadership team prepare and submit a school district budget to the board for approval. The board reviews the submission, accepts, rejects, or makes recommendations for revision based on the available funds. The superintendent makes any necessary changes. The board reviews the budget again and, if no further changes are needed, adopts the budget.

Communication with the Community
Because board members are not school district employees, they better serve the public interests in school-related issues. Thus, they are a critical part of the communication between schools and the community. They build the link between school and community by reporting district actions and progress to the public. In turn, they carry messages of support and concern from the public to the superintendent.

Most board meetings are open for members of the public to attend. Members of the public may submit a request to speak before the board about topics related to the district and schools.

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