Communication between school board members and their constituents in a selected southeastern state

Legena Manay Roberts

Abstract

Local school boards have been virtually ignored in the educational reforms, despite the fact that these lay citizens oversee financial, personnel, and instructional matters in America's schools. Knowledge of school board members' communication sources is necessary for academic excellence. The purpose of this study was to determine how often local school board members communicate with their constituents to receive information to help them make school district decisions. The participants consisted of 148 school board members in a selected southeastern state. A questionnaire that consisted of demographic information and questions that represented communication sources with school district personnel, parents and community members, government and professional agencies, and media representatives was mailed to school board members. The demographic findings in this study indicated that the typical school board member was a Caucasian male with a college degree, approximately 51 years old, and had no children presently in public schools. In terms of communication sources, the results of this study showed that school board members were likely to communicate with superintendents, and their friends and neighbors in order to receive school district information. Also, they made decisions based on a representative orientation that best served the community, especially, since student discipline and teacher performance were cited as critical issues of concern. Although gender was not a significant influence of school board member communication, ethnicity was only significant to Caucasian school board members, who reported frequent communication with school administrators. In conclusion, school board members with more years of experience, or who have served as a chairperson indicated extensive communication with superintendents and parents. Based on these findings, it was summarized that school board members continue to communicate with their constituents in order to make effective school district decisions. Therefore, it is vital for school board members to incorporate alternative communication patterns, such as forums, newsletters, and brochures to help discuss important school district issues, such as standardized tests, school safety, and student discipline. These alternative communication channels can help provide greater awareness of the educational system and its impact on the community.