January honors important work of school board members

“A free public education is the foundation of our great democracy,” CSBA President Emma Turner said at the 2018 Annual Education Conference and Trade Show in San Francisco in November. And crucial to the success of that public education are school board trustees who provide a critical link between the school system and local constituents, ensure accountability and are on the front lines of education advocacy. With this invaluable contribution in mind, CSBA salutes school board members across the state as part of January’s School Board Recognition Month.

At present, there are more than 5,000 school board trustees in California, serving at both the district and county office of education level. They represent the largest group of elected officials in California and hold a pivotal role in the state’s success and shape its future by aiding in the establishment of education standards and benchmarks, and by providing important oversight at the local level.

“School boards are engaged in what may be the most direct form of democracy we have in the United States and the stakes couldn’t be higher – the well being of children and the future of our society,” said CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “It’s essential that California recognize the critical work that school boards are doing and support them in their efforts to provide all students with a high-quality education that prepares them for success in college, career and civic life.”

In addition to overseeing educational quality at school districts and county boards of education, trustees also take on leadership responsibilities away from the classroom. This includes decision-making and direction on budgets, responding to natural disasters, staffing, facilities upkeep and development, food services for kindergarteners through high schoolers, sports programs and other issues. Such concerns are discussed at board meetings that often run late into the night, with intense feedback from the community and scrutiny from the media. Meanwhile, many trustees — 41 percent, according to a recent California School Boards Associations survey — have an additional full-time job. Serving as a school board member is not a relaxing hobby or an easy pastime, it’s a labor of love for those who see schools as the cornerstone of our society’s future.

Recognizing the importance of this work and the need to advocate more effectively for public schools, a group of trustees established the California School Trustees Association in 1931 to “secure equal educational opportunities for the pupils in all school districts in the state.” In 1940, the Association’s founding member, Florence Porter, was instrumental in forming the National Council of State School Boards Association (later the National School Boards Association).

In 1953, California School Trustees Association rebranded as the California School Boards Association, an organization dedicated to strengthening and promoting school board governance and driving the public education policy agenda through advocacy, training and member services. This advocacy extends to the national level as well, with CSBA member and Past President Frank Pugh — a long-time trustee with Santa Rosa City Schools — now serving as the president of the National School Boards Association.

CSBA is committed to the idea that strong local boards of education are needed to provide a high-quality education for each student in each community. Since the organization’s founding, CSBA has supported boards in this work by fighting to preserve the crucial principle of local control and to secure full and fair funding for California’s public schools.

In appreciation of the important role school board members play in shaping the education landscape of California, CSBA salutes hard-working trustees for the contributions you make during January’s School Board Recognition Month and in every month of your tenure.