The second episode in an “Education Matters” series focusing on school governance focuses on a critical topic: the board’s role when it comes to district staff.

Dr. Peter Hughes, superintendent of Haworth School District in Bergen County and a former member of the Kinnelon Board of Education in Morris County; and Kerri Wright, a longtime member of the Chester Board of Education in Morris County and a lawyer with Porzio Bromberg & Newman P.C. who often represents school boards, continue their wide-ranging conversation with Ray Pinney, director of county activities and member engagement at NJSBA, as part of the School Governance Primer series.

As a board member, you should never observe a staff member for evaluation purposes, said Wright, who is NJSBA’s 2021-2022 Board Member of the Year. That should be left to the superintendent and other school personnel.

“Board members don’t lose their ability to go into the classroom and speak to their child’s teacher … that, I think gets a little confusing for board members,” Wright said, explaining that they can still talk to staff and advocate for their children as long as they are not doing so in their capacity as a board member.

Hughes noted that his administrative team receives training on how to evaluate staff, which includes gauging whether teachers are following the curriculum. Board members should work to understand the process and how staff is performing, he said.

Board members do play a key role, however, in determining whether to approve recommendations to promote staff as well as whether to approve tenure or hire new staff members, Wright said. “They have the authority to either accept or reject recommendations,” she said.

The board can also ask to see a list of all the candidates that applied for a position and evaluate if the superintendent made the most appropriate recommendation, Wright said. There are limitations, however. For instance, a board cannot suddenly seek to approve someone for a position who did not apply for the job.

It’s important to keep board members informed throughout the hiring process, Hughes said. “I want them to really trust the process, so I bring my board along with the process and describe the process,” he said.

View the second episode and others in the School Governance Primer series.