Citizens interested in running for local school board office must file nominating petitions with their county clerk by 4 p.m., Monday, July 26 for their names to appear on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
Nominating petitions must be signed by at least 10 registered voters in the school district (or in the case of a regional school district, 10 registered voters in the constituent municipality that the candidate would represent on the regional board). Approximately 530 of the state’s local school districts elect board of education members in November.
Information on the school board nominating process is available on the New Jersey School Boards Association’s candidate information webpage.
By law, school board membership is a non-partisan public office. It is also unpaid.
Below are frequently asked questions about school board membership and the election process.
What is the role of the local school board? The local board of education sets the policies that guide school district operations, affecting what is taught in the classroom and how it is taught, as well as staffing, extracurricular programming, and the use of school buildings. The board adopts curriculum, approves the budget, hires and evaluates the superintendent, and negotiates contracts with staff, including teachers.
Local school board members do not run the schools—that’s the job of the superintendent and administration. But together with their fellow board members, they ensure that the schools are well-run.
How long are board member terms? Elected school board positions consist of three-year terms. However, unexpired terms of one or two years may also appear on the ballot.
What are the legal qualifications for local school board membership? To serve on a local school board in New Jersey, a person must be a U.S. citizen, have at least one year’s residency in the school district (or, in the case of a regional school district, in the constituent municipality he or she would represent on the board), and be a registered voter in the district or constituent municipality. In addition, the “Qualifications” statute, N.J.S.A. 18A:12-1, cites a list of disqualifying criminal offenses. (Newly elected board members must undergo a criminal history background check to serve in office.)
Board members may not serve on the municipal governing body or as mayor, and may not have a contract with, or claim against, the board according to N.J.S.A. 18A:12-2, (the statute concerning “inconsistent interest or office prohibited”). In addition, N.J.S.A. 19:3-5.2, a 2007 statute, restricts the holding of two elected offices simultaneously.
Must a school board member have a background in education? School board membership in New Jersey is based on the concept of lay control. The board of education is elected from the citizenry, and its members should have a genuine interest in the educational well-being of the community’s students. However, they do not have to be experts in curriculum, school law, finance or collective bargaining. The school board establishes goals for the district in areas ranging from student achievement, to finance and facilities. And it works with the school district’s administration toward meeting the goals, while holding it accountable for progress.
New Jersey requires school board members to undergo training in each year of the first term in office, and in the year following reelection or reappointment. Programming addresses ethics, superintendent evaluation, the responsibilities of board membership, school finance, student achievement, the state’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, and other legal developments.
The New Jersey School Boards Association, a federation of the state’s local boards of education, provides the required training at no cost through a variety of in-person and online programs. Additionally, through its Board Member Academy, NJSBA offers specialized training in school board leadership, negotiations, school law, and other areas.
For additional information about school board responsibilities, qualifications for candidacy, nominating petitions, and the location of county clerks offices, visit NJSBA’s school board candidacy information page.