Understand: School board trustees

SAN ANTONIO – School board members are tasked with making policies for the future of our school districts, and about 50 candidates in Bexar County are vying for a chance to do just that.

There are 21 open school board seats in the May 4 election.

The requirements for candidates to be on board are to be registered to vote, be a member of the district they wish to represent and be clear of any felony convictions.

Dr. John Folks, retired superintendent and professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said school boards and superintendent and staff have to work together to be effective stewards of the district’s future. 

“Work with your board to bring about that unit to really do the thing that will be best for the kids in the district, the teachers and the community,” he said.

Folks said there is a fine line that the board and superintendents must follow without overstepping on each other's authority. He said incoming trustees must be ready to put in a lot of work and be humble enough to know there will be a lot of learning.

“Don’t come in with an agenda that you know everything and you think you need to change everything,” he said. “You’re only one person in a seven-member board.”

He said it takes about two to three years for a new board member to learn the ins and outs of how the process works.  

“You need to spend a lot of time reading the materials, studying the materials, making sure that when you get into the meeting and discussions begin about those topics, that you're familiar with the information available about those topics," Folks said.

Rose Marie Martinez served on the South San Independent School District board for one term. Even with her expertise in finances in her background, there was still a lot to be learned.

“You have to dedicate your whole life to it. It is a full-time job. It’s not easy. You give up part of your home life in order to make the right decisions,” she said.

She urges anyone who is elected to the board to be humble, compassionate and  ready to listen to the community to know how to proceed on decisions. And she suggested asking for help from those with experience regarding matters on which board members will make decisions. 

The Texas Association of School Boards helps guide board members through training. The association represents 1,023 school districts.

Phi Gore, division director, said the challenge for a trustee is to be able to think long-term when it comes to the decisions they will make.

“How do they oversee management without becoming management, because they are not elected to be a manger?” Gore said. “They are elected to be an overseer, a steward, a part of a governance team.”

The job does not pay. It’s simply a service to the community.

LINK: May 4 Sample Ballot

LINK: SWISD candidates (not on sample ballot)

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