Top Two Critical Responsibilities of School Board Members from LEE Member, Judith Cruz | Leadership for Educational Equity Skip to main content

Top Two Critical Responsibilities of School Board Members from LEE Member, Judith Cruz

This post is part of our Elected Leader FAQ guidance for newly elected leaders.

 

School boards are a critical part of a district’s ecosystem and success. From approving budgets to setting district policy, school boards have a lot of responsibility and power that impacts student learning and achievement. 

LEE member and Houston Independent School District (ISD) board member, Judith Cruz, shares two critical responsibilities of the school board: holding the superintendent accountable and centering decisions around what’s best for students. 

The number one job of the board is to hold the superintendent accountable

Cruz shares that the most important job of a school board is to hold the superintendent and their administration accountable for the policies they are implementing and the goals that the board has set for them. 

“You’re not there to be the superintendent’s friend. They report to you and you want to keep that professional. Be clear with the expectations you have for the superintendent, both as an individual board member and as a whole body.” 

In Houston ISD, Cruz describes how their district uses a student outcomes focused governance framework. The board sets 3-5 multi-year SMART goals and gets monthly updates on the goals at their board meetings. The board holds the superintendent to achieving these student outcomes. As part of that, Cruz notes it’s important to push where needed and provide commendation as appropriate. As Cruz shares, it’s easy to set policy, but if there isn’t a mechanism for following through to make sure they’re actually being implemented with fidelity, then it won’t lead to better outcomes.

Stay focused on doing what’s best for students 

Even though it can be easy to get distracted as a board member, Cruz emphasizes that it’s important for newly elected school board members to stay focused on student learning. This should be at the forefront of your mind as you and your board are deciding what to adopt. 

Cruz also cautions against becoming a “rubber stamp” – meaning you approve things without asking questions – for the superintendent and their administration. Keep in mind, Cruz says, that you were elected by the community and public. Your job is to make sure the superintendent is doing what’s best for the students. This means that you have to push them to be better. It’s easy to get comfortable and make excuses. Cruz notes that she often hears the excuses of poverty and the pandemic, which are real. However, it should not be used as an excuse to not do better because students deserve better. 

Reflections

  • What are the goals your board has set for the superintendent? How often does your board engage in progress monitoring? 
  • Set a meeting with your superintendent and fellow board members to help with developing a relationship of trust and respect. 

Explore how to set yourself up for success as an elected leader.

Related Resources