A school board is a legislative body of citizens called school directors, who are elected locally by their fellow citizens and who serve as agents of the state legislature. Each board consists of nine members who serve four-year terms of office without pay. School directors, although locally elected, are really state officials, co-partners with the legislature. They are designated by school law to administer the school system in each district.
Public education is fundamentally a state responsibility. A system of free public education is mandated under the state constitution, which states in Article II, Section 14: “ The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education…. ” Constitutional recognition of the public schools as a legislative function is further found in Article IX, Section 10, in which a school district is described as a “ unit of local government.”
Public education thus enjoys special status under the state constitution and is the only public service so mandated by the constitution.
To carry out this mandate, the General Assembly created school districts and school boards in 1834. It conferred broad legal powers to the local boards, making them autonomous in many of their operations. Therefore, the school board is a political subdivision of the state for the purpose of convenient administration of the schools.
The General Assembly created the State Board of Education, the Department of Education, the intermediate unit structure and other state agencies. These agencies administer the state laws that control the state ‘ s public education system. There are, therefore, several governing influences upon a board of school directors.
The School Laws of Pennsylvania is the primary compilation of the statutes enacted by the legislature having direct and pertinent reference to public education, its programs, its operation and its management. In addition, rules and regulation of the State Board, guidelines of the Department of Education, opinions and interpretations of the state attorney general and court decrees all influence local board operation.
Effective school boards concentrate their time and energy on determining what it is the schools should accomplish and enacting policies to carry out these goals.
In essence, school boards have three functions: planning, setting policy and evaluating results.
Officers of a school board include a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. By law, all school boards organize during the first week of December. At this meeting, a president and vice president are elected to serve one-year terms of office. A treasurer, however, is elected in May to serve a one-year term that begins the first day of July. Every fourth year in May, the board elects a school board secretary whose term of office is four years.
The school fiscal calendar for the majority of public school districts is July 1-June 30. Districts of the first, first class A and second class may, by majority vote, establish a fiscal year to coincide with the calendar year.
Each school district is assigned to an intermediate unit, which is operated by a governing board composed of locally elected school directors from the school districts that make up the intermediate unit. IU board members serve three-year terms and may succeed themselves without limitation, as long as they remain local board members.