Each school board operates differently depending of the type of district – city or county – and the laws of the area they serve.
School boards are governing bodies that serve the public. Many represent the district in which they live.
A school board chairman leads the board in matters, specifically in board meetings, and directs motions to be made.
In Alabama, a quorum of the school board must be present to discuss actionable items, which can only be discussed in public settings. The public is notified of future meetings via local newspapers, social media, and the school district’s website.
Boards usually have a work session before the board meeting to review items that could be voted on in the near future.
In the Wiregrass, there are three school boards that can give insight to the way different school boards operate: Daleville City, Houston County and Dothan City schools.
Daleville City Schools is perhaps the most interesting as there are only a few school boards in the state that operate in the same way, and the ones that do are generally located in less-populated cities.
Daleville City school board members are appointed by the city council, which is made up of elected officials. Board members are appointed for 5-year terms, and report to the city council.
The school board is closely advised by an attorney, who is present at all board meetings and work sessions.
Board members appoint their own superintendent and chief school financial officer, although the superintendent can be consulted for hiring the financial officer. All other hires are recommended to the board by the superintendent.
The school board has some liberty in deciding the length of the superintendent’s and CSFO’s contracts. The most recent superintendent was awarded a two-year contract, although the board has been known to award longer terms.
In April of this year, many concerned Daleville citizens petitioned the city council to consider turning over power to them so that they could vote for their own representatives. Council members had no response.
Daleville board members are authorized to receive no more than $600 per month in compensation “in addition to actual travel expenses and other necessary, sensible expenses incurred in attending meetings and transacting business of the board,” according to the board policy manual.
Houston County Schools operates in the same way as only 37 school districts in the state, maintaining an elected superintendent in addition to an elected school board.
An elected superintendent serves four-year terms along with other elected officials and goes through the primary and general election process just the same. To run in the primaries, elected officials must choose a political party to represent.
Their pay scales are pre-determined by a salary schedule depending on years of experience and education. Many superintendents’ contracts have the provision that the superintendent’s salary is increased along with pay raises given to teachers and support staff set by the state.
This past year, teachers were given a 4% pay raise that many superintendents were awarded as well, including the superintendent of Houston County Schools.
Most school boards in Alabama have moved to an appointed superintendent seat because it is believed that elected school officials are not as beholden to the school board.
Houston County Board of Education members are authorized to receive, but not to exceed, $8,400 per year in additional to actual travel and “sensible” expenses.
Dothan City Schools has the classic adopted structure of an elected school board who appoints a superintendent.
The school board has little more freedom in deciding the pay rate, as attracting a superintendent is a more competitive process. Larger school systems typically have more funds at their disposal.
It is unclear at this time how much board members are compensated at is not outlined in their board policy. The average in Alabama is $6,800, according to the Alabama Association of School Boards. The state minimum is $600 a month.
Chalk Talk, an education notebook compiled by education beat reporter Sable Riley, appears each weekend in the Dothan Eagle and at DothanEagle.com