Weatherford Opinion

School board trustees and the oath of office

By Bobby J Rigues

May 9 was a big day.

Engaged community members across Texas went to the polls and exercised a precious right by electing stewards to govern and oversee their local public schools. As school board trustees, these men and women will join over 7,000 elected officials entrusted with the responsibility of making sure all children have access to a quality education.

Newly elected, these civic-minded individuals will take the official Oath of Office. With a raised hand, they will affirm to faithfully execute their duties and protect our Constitution and laws. Applause will be heard and handshakes will be shared as their responsibilities become official.

As a voter, consider the following: as an elected trustee, what exactly does the Oath of Office actually trigger? The answer is found under an umbrella of multiple statutes (laws) that spell out the purpose, duties, and responsibilities.

Most, if not all, school districts provide the following legal policy language that best describes the overall function of a trustee as a member of the school board:

"The Board shall constitute a body corporate and shall have the exclusive power to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the District." (BA Legal) TEC 11.051(a), 11.151(b)

Both new and re-elected trustees have an obligation to be students themselves – knowledge is essential to be effective. Trustees will learn about curriculum, finance, district operations, superintendent evaluations and a host of other topics among the list of responsibilities. (19 TAC 61.1) (TEC Sec. 11.151)

Of all the statutes that guide trustees, the most valuable refers to a document called "The Framework for School Board Development." Rich in substance, this document outlines the vision, structure, accountability, advocacy and unity needed to promote successful student outcomes. These outcomes require a shared engagement from the parent, student, community, and school.

Knowing the general duties and responsibilities of a trustee is just the beginning. Through continuous learning, trustees will also gain a depth of understanding about public education. Article 7, Section 1 in our Texas Constitution will be seen with clarity. This is the section that describes the "why" and the "how" – why we should protect the value of education and how it should be accomplished in order to guard the foundation of our democracy.

Trustees will be introduced to the web of regulations that is woven throughout our local, state, and federal levels of government. Making sound decisions at the local level will require a fundamental understanding of our state and federal education policies.

The world of student academics supported by extra-curricular programs will be viewed with greater respect. The stresses associated with tax and financial issues will require the clearest possible focus. The topic of safety, to protect our children from the moment they leave their homes and throughout the day, will carry the heaviest burden of responsibility. And the concept of parental, student and community engagement will be viewed as the ultimate pathway to successful schools.

In order to be held accountable, school trustees will find the practice of good ethics and perpetual learning a requirement for success. Experienced trustees will tell you, the privilege to serve will always be considered the greatest honor bestowed.

Make Education a Priority.

Bobby J Rigues is on the Aledo ISD School Board, a Leadership TASB Master Trustee, and is the founder of "Make Education a Priority."