county boards
County Perspective
An overview of county boards of education
by Rick Shea, Vice President CCBE, Trustee, San Diego COE

County boards of education are the elected governing boards of county offices of education. The boards operate under the authority of the California Constitution, the Legislature, California Education Code and the State Board of Education.

The San Diego County Office of Education is one of only five in California that recruit, hire and supervise its county superintendent. The other 53 elect their county superintendent. San Diego COE serves as landlord and owner of property; and acts as an appeal board for student expulsions, inter-district transfers and charter school petitions. While serving as the appellate body, San Diego COE is an integral part of ensuring the voices of parents, community members and students are heard. With expulsion hearings, county boards review district hearing transcripts to assure the expelling board’s decision followed legal requirements. Similarly, we evaluate the needs of the student in interdistrict transfers. If the board finds discrepancies, it then informs the district and works with it to assure future compliance.

For charter school appeals, the county board reviews the school’s petition and may decide to authorize or deny the charter. Charter schools can also appeal if the school is not renewed, or its charter is revoked by the authorizing district. A final appeal can be made to the State Board of Education.

Here in San Diego, the county office’s main focus is to support 42 districts and students. San Diego COE serves more than 500,000 students in 780 schools in the county, including the more than 3,000 students in our juvenile court and community schools. This includes schools for foster children, deaf and the hard of hearing, medically fragile students and students experiencing homelessness.

San Diego COE provides services to educators and students across the county, including payroll, safety and emergency programs, fingerprinting, outdoor education, financial oversight, and professional learning. The board is responsible for adopting the county office’s annual Local Control and Accountability Plan and operating budget.

In San Diego County, the board of education also serves as the County Committee on School District Organization in matters pertaining to the organization and reorganization of school districts, changes in district boundaries, and the number of trustees and the way they are elected. The committee has been called into action several times recently, as school districts move from at-large elections to a by-trustee-area election system to ensure compliance with the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.

A school district governing board must decide if it wants to make the move to by-trustee-area elections and, after doing so, approve a map to establish the boundaries of the trustee areas. The resolution to change the election system and the map is sent to the county board of education, which will hold at least one public hearing to gather input on the new election system and trustee area map.

While county boards have different roles and responsibilities than district boards, they work in partnership to support local districts to serve students, their families and the community.