How do I Become a Board Member?

  • What does a School Board Director do?

    School board members - school directors - are the "governors" of the school district who work in partnership with their administrative team to set the district's direction.  The school board's governance responsibilities fall in four major areas:

       Vision - The board focuses the work of the district and community on student achievement through a comprehensive strategic planning process.

       Structure - The board governs the district through prudent financial planning and oversight, as well as diligent and innovative policy making.

       Accountability - The board infuses all programs and crucial policies with specific goals and a process for evaluation, reporting and recommendations for improvements.

       Advocacy - The board champions public education in the local community and before state and federal policy makers.

    There is a definite line between governing the district and administering its daily activities. While boards are ultimately responsible, they employ a professional staff of administrators (led by a superintendent) to manage the day-to-day functions in the school district.

    As the governors of the district, school boards work with their administrators to make decisions and set policy regarding a number of matters, including bond and levy elections, budget adoption, facilities, curriculum adoption, fiscal planning and oversight, employee relation and transportation.

    Cooperation is the key to successful school board governance. Each board member works with the other members of the board and in partnership with the superintendent, who carries out the board's vision and direction. Decision-making authority is vested in the school board as a whole - individual proposals are adopted only when a majority of the board approves them.

    How to become a School Board Director

    Election and Term of Office

    All school board members in Washington are publicly elected (except when a person is appointed by a board to fill a vacancy pending the next regular school board election). In some districts all or some directors are elected at large and may live anywhere in the district. In other districts, board members must live within certain areas called director districts. In either case, candidates are voted on by all voters in the school district except in primary elections in Seattle. Check with the superintendent of schools or the county auditor's elections office for the election plan in your district.

    State law provides that school board elections are to be held in odd-numbered years. School board elections are "staggered," which means only part of the board is up for election in any given year.

    The filing period for school board elections begins the first Monday in June and ends the following Friday. Declarations of candidacy are filed with the county auditor's elections office, and there is no filing fee. If a district is located in more than one county, candidates file in the county where the majority of the district's residents live.

    Primary election day is the third Tuesday in September and the general election is on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. If no more than two people file for a position, there is no primary election for that position. Newly-elected directors take office at the first official board meeting following the certification of election results by the county auditor or county elections officer.

    All Washington school boards have five members except the Seattle School Board, which has seven. School directors in Spokane, Tacoma and Everett serve six-year terms, and all others serve four-year terms.

    Legal qualifications

    To be legally eligible for the office of school director a person must be a:

    -Registered voter in the school district
    -Registered voter in the director district within the school district, if applicable.

    To register to vote, you must be a citizen of the United States, a legal resident of Washington State, and at least 18 years old by election day.

    Conflict of interest

    Neither a school director nor his/her spouse or interdependent family members may be employed by the school district except:

    1) When the director's spouse was employed by the district before the director's election or appointment to the board;

    2) In districts with fewer than 200 students, a director's spouse may be employed as certificated or classified staff;

    3) A director's spouse may be employed as a substitute teacher if there is a shortage of substitutes;

    4) In second-class districts (under 2,000 students) a director, his/her spouse or interdependent family members may be employed as a bus driver at the same rate of pay as other such employees; or

    5) In second-class districts a director, his/her spouse or his/her dependents may work as unskilled, day laborers for not more than $100 per month.

    In addition, a school director may not have any direct or indirect financial interest in any contract, purchase of materials or activity paid from school funds that exceeds $1500 per month. For more details on conflict of interest restrictions and exemptions, review Chapter 42.23 of the Revised Code of Washington.

    Financial Reporting

    Most school directors and school board candidates are required to file financial disclosure statements with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). These reports begin with candidacy and continue throughout the term of office. Candidates must also file campaign financial reports. For detailed information regarding requirements, deadlines and forms for reports, contact your county auditor's elections office or the Public Disclosure Commission, 711 Capitol Way, Room 206, Olympia, WA 98504-0908. Telephone: (360) 753-1111 or Toll Free 1-877-601-2828. Internet:


    It is important to remember that the state's public disclosure law prohibits the use of facilities of any public agency from being used directly or indirectly to assist any campaign for or against any candidate or ballot proposition. Thus, school board candidates must make a complete separation between campaign activities and the school district.

    Local ordinances may also contain specific requirements, such as the placement of campaign signs, so be sure to check with the city or county. Again, for details on campaign restrictions, contact your county auditor's elections office or the Public Disclosure Commission