Role of the board chair
August 13, 2009
Board policy designates most duties and obligations of the chair, so it is important for any new board chair to review the policy for clarification on the chair's role. In reality, the chair has few statutory responsibilities.
OSBA strongly suggests that the board list the duties of board officers in job descriptions located in the operations section of the policy manual. This will help clarify responsibilities from the moment the chair and other officers take their positions.
Typical duties of the board chair:
- Presiding at all meetings of the board and performing all duties imposed by board policy BCB, ORS 255.335, and ORS 332.040-057, as well as duties proscribed by board policies, rules and regulations;
- Assisting the superintendent in planning the board's agendas;
- Representing the district and the board at official functions, except when this responsibility is delegated to others;
- Being responsible for the orderly conduct of all board meetings;
- Calling special meetings when required;
- Appointing all committees and serving as an ex-officio member of those committees, unless otherwise ordered by the board;
- Keeping the vice-chair informed on all pertinent matters in case the chair is absent;
- Acting as a resource to the superintendent on decisions that may require further information between board meetings;
- Signing the minutes and other official documents that require the signature of the chair;
- Assuming other duties authorized by the board.
Communication with the board and public
Choosing the chair
The board chair and the superintendent
Superintendent and board chair dialogue
The board chair and the First Amendment
The Board Meeting
Most gatherings of the board of education are defined as meetings under the law, and bringing together members of the board to discuss district business is subject to the Public Meetings Law (ORS 192.610-192.990). It is a major responsibility of the board chair to know the rules and ensure that the board follows them.
A board meeting occurs when a quorum is present to gather information or decide or deliberate on any public matter. The law specifies the following:
- All meetings of public governing bodies shall be conducted in public unless specifically exempted.
- No quorum of a governing body may meet in private to decide or deliberate toward a decision on any matters except those exempted by law. (Board Policy BD/BDA)
A quorum consists of the following:
- Three members of a five-member board
- Four members of a seven-member board
- Five members of a nine-member board
Conducting the meeting
Robert's Rules simplified
Freedom of information
The board secretary
Dealing with the media at a meeting
Leadership styles vary and new board chairs will develop a style that works best for them. Talk to members of the board and the superintendent to find out what is going well and what needs improvement. Some board chairs hand out a simple evaluation sheet before a meeting. On it might be two questions:
- What happened at this meeting that needs attention?
- How can we make the meetings more effective?
Board members are encouraged to fill out the forms and give them to the chair whenever necessary. Board operations and the chair’s leadership can also be part of a discussion during the board’s self-evaluation.
Assuming the leadership role on the board can be especially difficult if the previous chair has served for many years. In particular, if the former chair remains on the board, other board members may defer to the former chair’s judgment. The new chair’s performance may be compared to that of his or her predecessor.
Communication is critical in fulfilling your new leadership role. Work to build a strong relationship with the superintendent and talk regularly to the former chair and other board members. Delegating some important responsibilities to the former chair will help you capitalize on his or her experience.
Sharing a common vision
Dealing with crisis
Working with the media
OSBA also publishes the following:
Boardsmanship for Oregon School District, ESD and Community College Board Members
A Guide to Parliamentary Procedure
Budget Committee Handbook
You can order publications online.
You can order the Attorney General's Public Records and Meetings Manual from the Oregon Department of Justice, Justice Building, Salem 97310 or online, www.doj.state.or.us/pubs.htm.