November 2012: Elected and staff board: What’s the difference?

When campaigning I heard an often-repeated and possibly widespread belief about the school board: it’s all one body. People don’t always realize that there’s a distinction: elected board and board staff. Board staff consists of 8,000 employees, the elected board, ten people. But for their shared focus they’re very different bodies meant to serve very different purposes. The elected board is a volunteer role. They are the representatives, the voice and ears, of their constituents. They receive an honorarium, $9,300 a year, meant to acknowledge the unusual time commitment and responsibility. The elected board meets formally every Wednesday evening for ten months of the year and beyond that individual members do whatever other work is required within their districts. School board staff, everyone from teachers and custodians to the superintendent, are employees of the board. It is their full time job to carry out the business of the school board and for this they receive a salary. The distinction between elected and board staff is not necessarily obvious but knowing more about what the differences are can only help us better understand what each does and can do.

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