Contrary to popular belief, the Board of Education (BOE) does not run the Fair Lawn School District. Our role is to ensure that the district is well run through the creation and updating of policies. These policies serve as a guide to the superintendent and provide direction, a basis for decision-making, and an imperative for action.
When hearing concerns on issues affecting the district as a whole, our board members function as policy makers. We place these concerns on a meeting agenda for discussion by the entire board or a board committee. The discussions can result in new or revised district policies.
As individuals, board members cannot make decisions for the board, take actions for the board, or speak for the board, unless the board has authorized them to do so. As board members, we are sworn to abide by the NJ School Board Member Code of Ethics, which defines the parameters under which we function.
The BOE functions by committee to review staff and administrator recommendations on the operation of the district, development of the budget, facilities maintenance, curriculum development, etc. The Fair Lawn BOE operates with numerous committees such as Education, Finance/Buildings & Grounds, Negotiations, Personnel, Special Education, Student Dialogue, Shared Services, and QSAC (for full list, see BOE Committee Assignments on the Board of Education Page). These committees consist of three/four board members and a district administrator. The Education and Policy Committees operate as a committee of the whole. At the BOE work sessions and/or committee meetings, committees review their action items with the full board for discussion. At the regular BOE meeting, the board takes action by voting on the resolutions discussed at the work session meeting. Occasionally, due to time constraints or an urgent need, the board will take action on individual resolutions at a work session meeting.
Sometimes, community members contact individual board members about personal issues. When that happens, board members will rightfully refer the person to an appropriate school staff member. Thinking that contacting a BOE member means “going right to the top” actually complicates rather than alleviates any problem or issue. Going around or over the heads of school staff creates morale problems and puts board members outside their area of responsibility. When the chain of command is used properly by citizens and board members, it improves communication and leaves the Board of Education free to act as final arbiter on issues that have not been resolve, at other steps in the chain. To determine who best should handle a matter or question, ask yourself, “Who is closest to the problem?” Most often the answer is a staff member. Bringing your concern to a teacher or principal will quickly get a response. If this is not the case, the next step is to seek out the superintendent. As a final step in this process, concerns can be brought before the board.
Board members are responsible for ensuring that the Fair Lawn School District provides its children the best education the community can afford. We have a responsibility not only to listen to all citizens but also to make sure those with a special point of view understand the needs of the school system as a whole. Above all, board members are responsible for and to the students in our schools