Town Meeting Day falls on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 and two positions on South Burlington’s five-member school board will be on the ballot: one for a term of two years through March 2021, and one for three years through March 2022.
School board members share a tremendous amount of responsibility, including development and oversight of the South Burlington School District’s $50 million budget; strategic planning related to the district’s five campuses; negotiations with its three unions which include almost 500 employees; and most importantly, evaluation of the superintendent’s performance in managing these financial, facilities and personnel resources in compliance with district policies toward desired outcomes for the district’s 2,500 students.
Given these myriad important tasks, a prospective school board candidate might ask, “What time commitment does board membership require?” After serving with the board for almost two years, in my experience, this depends upon both the board’s overall workload at any given time, and the individual member’s willingness and ability to take on additional tasks.
A minimum time commitment is four to five hours per week, which includes attendance at regularly-scheduled board meetings, usually twice per month, that last between three and four hours, plus study and review of the related meeting materials.
In addition to its regular meetings, however, the board convened almost three dozen special meetings this year typically related to one of two major efforts: union negotiations, and master planning and visioning related to school facilities. While not all board members need to attend special meetings, a member actively involved in either or both of these efforts can spend 30 to 40 hours per week both in the meetings themselves, and in preparation and follow-up.
Union negotiations are taking more time than in past years, largely due to state-level changes in health care plans, and master planning and visioning efforts including maintenance for the middle and high schools, reviewing all buildings relative to educational needs, and assessing elementary school capacity based on demographic projections, and on contingencies for Chamberlin school based on noise-related concerns.
My best advice for someone considering running for school board would be to have a genuine interest in overseeing the affairs of the district, specific interest in the master planning and visioning process and in union negotiations, and both a willingness and the ability to commit at least 10 to 15 hours per week, not only to contribute their fair share to the board’s overall workload, but also to feel like a full participant in the board’s mission. Please feel free to contact me or any board member for additional information; our contact information is on the district web site at www.sbschools.net/Page/48.
In closing, I would like to express my gratitude to the citizens of South Burlington for the opportunity to serve, to my fellow board members for their professionalism and continued service, and to the superintendent, administrators, teachers, and staff for their excellent work educating South Burlington’s students.