Hundreds of women and men volunteer to serve as school board members for all the school boards in Alberta. While many board members serve multiple terms, there is considerable turnover every election. That’s why it is important for each school board to be forward looking, long before the candidate process begins.
Westwind School Division has prepared this publication to help prospective school board candidates understand the process and get involved.
This material includes the following documents:
- School board Member Job Description
- Why School Board Members Serve
- Characteristics of an Effective School Board Member
- How the nomination and election process work
- The time requirements of board members
In order to run for election as a Board Trustee, you need to fill out the nomination form, which you can download from Elections Alberta, or find on the Westwind website. This form needs to be signed by five people who are eligible to vote in your electoral ward. On September 18, 2017, between 10 AM and noon, you must bring this form and submit it to the Returning Officer at the Westwind School Division Central Office located at 445 Main Street, Cardston. If you miss this deadline you cannot run in the election.
The election will be held October 16, 2017.
Not all the electoral wards follow the current school boundaries, so make sure that you check where you live on this map to be certain that you submit papers to run in the correct ward. Click on the photo to expand it, or right click to download the image.
What time commitments you can expect as a board member
Yes, serving on a school board does take time and energy. However, the amount of time devoted to board work varies widely among board and among board members. In a 2013 survey of school board members, few board members reported spending more than 20 hours each month on board duties. A majority said they spend between 6-20 hours on board duties each month. A few find they must ask their employers for released time - and that’s a contribution that some employers are happy to make. Most board members find they must change their schedules in some way, but it’s usually a change for the better.
Some of the duties common to all board members are regular board meetings, committee meetings, school council meetings, professional development opportunities, and preparation. Board meetings have generally been held on the first Tuesday of each month except for July and sometimes August. Board meetings started at 9 AM and ran until between 3 and 4 PM (6-7 hours). Each board member sits on two committees. Some of the Board Committees have regular monthly or bimonthly meetings and some are held quarterly or once a year so the time requirements vary. The board committees are:
- Engagement and Communications Committee (6-8 meetings)
- Policy Committee (4-6 meetings)
- Student Advisory Committee (3-4 meetings)
- Technology Committee (2-4 meetings)
- Audit Committee (1-2 meetings)
- Board Teacher Liaison Committee (1-2 meetings)
- Management Committee (2-3 meetings)
- Strategic Planning Committee (1-2 meetings)
Board members are assigned to attend specific school council meetings, which usually meet monthly for one or two hours on a schedule determined by each council.
Becoming a board member can be daunting at first, but there are significant opportunities for professional development and growth available to new trustees through the Alberta School Boards Association and other organizations. The time you dedicate to professional development depends on your interest in ongoing learning and your areas of interest.
Division administration and staff work hard to prepare as much information for trustees as possible before each Board and committee meeting so that trustees can understand issues before coming to the table. This helps trustees quickly engage in meaningful conversations around solutions. Reviewing the material that will be discussed at the meetings will take some time each month, but the time spent in preparation is well worth the effort.
Conflicts of Interest
In communities as small and tightly knit as those that make up Westwind, nearly everyone has close ties with people who work for the school division. A conflict of interest means that a discussion or decision of the board could impact, personally or monetarily,
- the member themselves or their close family member,
- a different business or organization in which the member, or their close family member, has an interest or stake,
- the employer of that member or their close family member.
At the beginning of a your term as a Board member, you will file a statement that shows the names and employment of you, your spouse or partner, and your children; the names of the corporations, partnerships, firms, or people in which you have conflicts of interest; and the names of the corporations, partnerships, firms, or people in which your spouse or partner and children over 18 have a conflict of interest. It is very important to know what your conflicts of interest are. If the board discusses a matter in which you have a conflict of interest, you need to immediately state what it is and recuse yourself from the discussion and decision making for that matter. The School Act states than any trustee who fails to do this is disqualified from remaining as a trustee of the board.