School Boards and Trustees: Guiding Public Education in Alberta
This article is the first in a series about the role of your school board and the trustees who serve the Livingstone Range community.
School board trustees have long been part of the Alberta educational environment, representing the interests of students and the communities in which they live. Trustees are elected officials – people with a reputation for honesty, integrity, commitment and trust. Yet, how much do most of us know about the specifics of trustee responsibility and the inner workings of our school board? Livingstone Range School Division would like to take the opportunity to share information about our board, its mandate, and the hard-working and dedicated people who serve in this role.
The Role of the Board of Trustees
In the province of Alberta, there are 62 elected school boards (public, separate and francophone) that are accountable to the communities they serve. Authority is granted to boards by the Government of Alberta School Act, with a mandate to act for the legislature in their local schools and communities. The existence of school boards arises from the belief that decisions made closest to the people governed by them will be most effective.
Broadly speaking, the role of the board encompasses five main areas: authority, leadership, advocacy, direction setting and decision making.
The Alberta Legislature delegates some authority to school boards to establish policies around the provision of educational services and programs, to arrange or support student trips, and to make rules governing board-sponsored or approved activities.
The board has a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of students, to ensure that financial and capital resources are well managed and that business is conducted in an ethical and legal way, and to ensure that each student has the opportunity to achieve their potential. Boards provide strategic leadership through establishing the division’s mission, values, vision and goals, and implementing them in consultation with community members. They also make decisions about resources, programs and services that reflect long-term goals and meet community needs.
According to the Alberta School Boards Association, “The school board is an advocate for public education and the local school system. School boards advocate for students... [and] partner with parents to ensure children are provided with the best possible educational opportunities.”
School boards apply the mission, values, vision and goals in strategic planning to set an overall direction for the school division, as well as to identify priorities and to plan, develop, implement and evaluate policy. These activities take place in consultation with divisional stakeholders.
Finally, boards are tasked with making decisions in the best interests of all students in the division, in a manner that reflects established goals and values. The board acts as a governing body, with decisions made in consultation with the entire board. No one trustee can make decisions on behalf of the board without permission of the group.
In addition to the above, boards of trustees are responsible for the hiring and supervision of the superintendent, and are required to attend regular meetings to fulfill the above duties and obligations of the position.
All board meetings are open to the public, though the board does have the authority to exclude any participant who is not behaving in a courteous and professional manner. The board also has the option of declaring part of a meeting private or “in camera” if the group determines that is in the public interest to do so. In camera meetings may include, for example, discussions about personnel matters, real estate and legal matters, appeals, or sensitive personal information. School boards can only pass a bylaw or a motion in a public meeting.
Alberta School Boards Association – Trustees Handbook 2017-2021
Alberta School Councils – Role of School Boards
Check back later for our next article, “The Role of the Trustee”. Meet the dedicated people representing each LRSD community, and learn more about what they do.