Such lack of public awareness is often the nature of this type of community service, yet it should never undermine the intrinsic value and pivotal role in public education by those who serve on local school boards.
Put another way, serving on a local school board sometimes is simply a thankless job.
Although elected to their board seats by the popular vote of the people in nonpartisan races, school board members are often tasked with making unpopular decisions — unpopular not because theirs are wrong actions, but because the issues themselves are sometimes contentious among parents, families and community residents observing the educational process from the outside looking in.
Consider these duties of a local school board and reflect on how many times you have agreed or disagreed with directions taken by either of our Cleveland Board of Education or Bradley County Board of Education governing bodies:
- Management and Control: The local board is to manage and control all public schools established under its jurisdiction. This gives the board the primary authority over school matters, while management responsibilities are delegated to the superintendent or director.
- Employment: The local board has the duty to employ the superintendent/director, set salaries for employees, grant tenure, approve evaluation plans for employees and hold dismissal hearings when necessary.
- Budget Preparation: The local board is required to prepare a budget for submission to the appropriate governing body; in this case, the Cleveland City Council or Bradley County Commission.
- Students: The local board has the duty to discipline students after a hearing as well as to establish standards and policies governing student attendance.
These are just a few. In Tennessee, local boards are also charged with the responsibility of authorizing purchases and developing school system policies.
Additionally, school board members are required to participate annually in extensive training that includes core modules in Policy, Board/Superintendent Relations, Vision, Advocacy and School Finance. And, new school board members must attend a two-day orientation session in Nashville sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Education during their first year.
Serving as a school board member is not easy.
Likewise, it is not always fun.
But for those who choose to become involved in the education of our young people through board membership, it is personally rewarding.
For the reasons mentioned above, and for so very many more, we offer our newspaper’s thank you and a well-deserved community recognition — a positive one — to members of the Cleveland Board of Education and Bradley County Board of Education.
Cleveland school board members include Tom Cloud, chairman; Steve Morgan, vice chairman; Richard Shaw, chairman pro-tem; and Dawn Robinson, Peggy Pesterfield, Murl Dirksen and George Meacham.
Bradley County school board members are Charlie Rose, chairman; Vicki Osment Beaty, vice chairwoman; and Chris Turner, Nicholas Lillios, Troy Weathers, Rodney Dillard and Christy Critchfield.
Each is an integral part of a collective village that is asked to raise our children.
We are certain local directors Dr. Martin Ringstaff and Johnny McDaniel will readily agree.
Serving as a school board member requires more than just votes. It takes vision, patience and personal conviction. But most of all, it requires an unconditional commitment to the education process and to the young minds it opens each and every day.