After school started this year, videos of angry, frustrated parents at school board meetings over masking, COVID policies and curriculum choices got a lot of play in news broadcasts and through social media. However, the school board might not be the best first place to start with concerns, says Don Wotruba, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Boards.
“Often what we’re finding right now, sometimes parents are going to the board … with a lack of understanding of what the board’s role is. So they go to the board, saying that you as a board need to fix this,” but authority over the issue, whether curriculum or COVID policies, actually rests in the superintendent’s office, he says.
Michigan’s more than 4,000 elected school board members oversee 1.43 million students, 600 communities and $16.98 billion in funds and set strategic plans for the district, according to the Michigan Association of School Boards.
“In some ways, for parents, being engaged in the local building level will provide them a greater understanding of the district and what’s happening in the buildings than sitting in a board meeting,” Wotruba says, adding that joining the PTA or PTO gives parents better access to decision makers. “Being active in your PTA or PTO has a huge impact. Parents gain such a better understanding of what’s going on in their district, what’s being taught, what teachers are thinking about.”
But if parents feel they haven’t been heard after going through the administrative structure in their district, “the board is there for them to say we don’t believe we’ve been heard,” Wotruba says.
This year also is an election year for school board members, with plenty of time for parents to get more actively involved in decision making.
Become a candidate
July 26: The filing deadline to run for a position this year.
Get out the vote
Nov. 8: General election
The work begins
Jan. 1, 2023: Term of office begins
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