Public education, it’s been said, is a cornerstone of America. From small, one-school districts to big city systems with tens of thousands of students, our public schools educate future scientists and doctors, artists and professional athletes, business people, and leaders in all walks of life.

smallNJSBlogoBlue.jpgOur public schools, however, do not operate themselves. In every New Jersey school district is a board of education, comprised of members, usually elected, who provide critical leadership and oversight. Statewide, 5,000 citizens serve—without compensation—on their local school boards.

As the City of Newark prepares for its Annual School Election on April 19, it’s a good time to consider the responsibilities of the local board of education.

The job of the local school board is to make sure that the schools are well-run—that is, boards do not run schools. Rather, they work with their chief school administrator in establishing goals for the communities’ public schools, while weighing student educational needs, parent and community aspirations, state and federal requirements, and district financial resources. In Newark, the Advisory School Board works with the State District Superintendent in establishing goals.

All school boards create policies to guide their administrators in the implementation of the education program. They foster community understanding of educational issues. And they work to ensure that there are adequate resources for educating children.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” I also believe in the power of education; it’s a tool that can change lives.

School board members are the people empowered to make sure that tool is used properly and effectively—with the advancement of student achievement as the ultimate goal.

Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, Ed.D., is the executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, a federation of the state’s local boards of education and includes the majority of New Jersey’s charter schools as associate members. NJSBA provides training, advocacy and support to advance public education and promote the achievement of all students through effective governance.