GovernanceCorner Practical tips from our MIG faculty

The importance of student school board members

Many district and county school board governance teams in California have a student board member. Why is this important?

Students should have the opportunity to experience different leadership options during their high school years — becoming a student board member is one of these. Once elected, a student board member can experience democracy up close and personal. They serve as the liaison between all students and the school board and between the school board and students. They represent student interests, are the student voice in important discussions and are able to voice an opinion on important policy and procedure conversations.

The student school board member also provides communication between school-based leadership and the school board and community. A student usually serves a one-year term alongside the sitting board members and may offer their preferential vote on some agenda items. With a preferential vote, the student’s vote is recorded in the board minutes, but does not affect the final outcome of a voting item.

Board members should ask these important questions when examining their student board member program:

  1. When a new student school board member is elected, how do we onboard that individual?
  2. What ongoing training do we provide?
  3. What support materials is the student board member receiving before school board meetings?
  4. How do school board members support and build capacity in our student?
  5. When the student board member is speaking, is the team actively listening to that critical student voice?

By having this important leadership opportunity for students on the governance team, boards can help create future leaders in our community and state. We can teach our student board member to work with purpose and how to make a difference in the complicated world they will be facing as an adult. See the fall 2020 issue of California Schools magazine for an in-depth look at student board members.