Board of Trustees
The Role of a School Board Trustee
Source: The Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) website is an excellent resource for information on the role of school boards and school trustees, including their “Trustee Handbook”. Much of the information shared here is sourced from ASBA.
What do school boards do?
It is up to school boards to ensure all children in their communities receive a quality education. Specific school board responsibilities include:
- Hiring and evaluating the superintendent.
- Adopting an annual budget that achieves jurisdiction priorities.
- Setting goals and priorities for the jurisdiction that achieve provincial education standards, meet the needs of students and reflect the community’s wishes.
- Making and enforcing policies that set out standards and expectations regarding the actions of administration, teachers and students.
- Communicating, informing and involving parents, staff and the community-at-large in school board decisions and activities.
- Lobbying the municipal and provincial governments on education issues of importance to the jurisdiction.
- Adjudicating policy or decision appeals.
What do trustees do?
A key responsibility for trustees is to stay in touch with community stakeholders so that they understand, and reflect in their decision-making, what all citizens value and want from their local public schools. It’s important to note that trustees do not represent any one school, neighbourhood or community. Rather, they make decisions based on the needs of the entire jurisdiction. Important information about Aspen View Public Schools can be found on the division’s website here.
As elected officials, trustees have several roles to play:
Trustees ensure the community has a say in local education by communicating effectively with stakeholders and ensuring their concerns and wishes are heard.
Trustees develop plans to deal with student needs and to actively participate in the economic and social strength of local communities.
They make policy
Trustees create policies to guide administration and staff. They also evaluate the impact of these policies and make adjustments where necessary.
Trustees address and seek resolution of public education issues of importance to students, parents and the community at large.
Trustees play a key role in developing tomorrow’s citizens because they have the ability to make decisions that impact the direction and quality of public education.
Trustees hear and make judgements concerning local education decisions, procedures or policies that individuals, groups or the public feel are unfair or improper.
Trustees communicate with the municipal and provincial levels of government to ensure those who influence funding and other resources hear the voice of the local community.
Trustees can make decisions that have the status and impact of law -- for example, decisions governing and enforcing the conduct of students and staff.
They are politicians
Trustees are elected every four years to govern the local public education system on behalf of the community. The democratic process ensures the public remains part of public education.
What rules must trustees follow?
School boards and trustees are governed by the provincial School Act, which is scheduled to be replaced by the new Education Act currently under review by the provincial government. Based on provincial legislation, Aspen View Public Schools’ Policy Manual includes several references to the role of the school board and its trustees. Some key elements include:
- Accountability to the provincial government and to the community;
- Selecting and evaluating the superintendent, but respecting their administrative authority;
- Supporting decisions of the school board and striving to develop a positive and respectful learning and working culture;
- Working with fellow trustees in a spirit of harmony and cooperation;
- Maintaining the confidentiality of privileged information;
- Remembering that individual trustees have no legal authority outside of board meetings;
- Declaring any conflict of interest and abstaining from voting when appropriate.
How much are trustees paid?
Trustee compensation rates are determined annually by the board of trustees, but can also be adjusted by board resolution. Compensation is governed by Aspen View Public Schools Policy 7: Board Operations (Sections 12 & 13).
Currently, all Aspen View Public Schools trustees are paid a $250 per month Communication Fee. The board chair and vice-chair are paid an additional $382.88 and $100 per month respectively. When they prepare for and attend meetings or other functions in their elected role, trustees can claim a per diem of up to $197.18 per day, plus mileage and meal allowances. The current Aspen View Public Schools Trustee Remuneration Form can be found on the division website.
For the 2015-16 school year, the average remuneration was approximately $13,600 per trustee; including expense reimbursement, conference coverage and health and pension benefits, the average compensation was approximately $27,570 per trustee. A full summary of trustee compensation is included annually within Aspen View Schools’ Audited Financial Statements.
What’s the time commitment of a trustee?
School board meetings account for approximately two full days per month. Board meeting locations rotate between the division office in Athabasca and schools across the division.
Trustees also serve on various board committees as described in Aspen View Public Schools Policy 8: Committees of the Board. Committee meetings are regularly scheduled each month and usually take approximately half a day each.
There are two large conferences and several small conferences and workshops throughout the year.
Beyond regular board meetings, the time required of trustees for committee meetings, conferences, etc. can range from a half day to up to three full days per month.
Trustees’ time is also spent attending school council meetings, school functions and other events related to their role, as well as communicating with stakeholders, preparing for meetings, keeping up to date on issues related to education, etc.
Travel is a requirement of any trustee position for board and committee meetings, conferences, etc.
In a general election, school board trustees are elected to four-year terms; the current term expires in October 2017. Trustees elected through a by-election retain their position until the end of the current term.