Student Member of the Board FAQ

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 2:22pm

Ever wondered what it's like to the Student Member of the Board of Education (SMOB)? Get the inside scoop from the 2019-20 SMOB Allison Alston, who answers several frequently asked questions about being SMOB below.

What does it feel like to be the Student Member of the Board of Education? How do the other Board members receive you?
Being the Student Member of the Board is a great opportunity. Although I do miss being around my peers some of the time, I certainly value the time I get to spend with the other Board members. They are definitely welcoming and engaging. You can tell how much they value student voice and student presence.

What kind of time commitment is involved in being SMOB? How do you balance it with your school and extracurricular commitments?
I would say about 10-15 hours goes into SMOB each week. While this is a big commitment, it is extremely manageable! Balancing my school and extracurricular commitments is all about communication with my teachers, coaches, managers at work, sponsors, and friends. Keeping my calendar app handy has definitely helped.

What skills are helpful to have to be a successful SMOB?
While not completely necessary, it does help to be confident in public speaking, and just have confidence in yourself in general. Speaking on behalf of all students is one of the most important parts of the position. Organization is also a vital skill, both in terms of time management and keeping track of all the materials contained in Board packets.

Does being SMOB require travel?
At minimum, the SMOB must make a couple of visits to the Department of Education each month for meetings. I enjoy school visits and other community visits as well, and I find myself speaking at different events several times throughout the month. It does help to be able to drive, depending on how active you’d wish to be outside of the required commitments, but it’s certainly not required that you have a car or license.

What are some of the benefits of being SMOB?
In terms of tangible benefits, my mileage is reimbursed when I have to travel to anything on “Board business”; I am loaned a computer by the school system during my term as SMOB; and sometimes I get food when there are longer, regular Board meetings. Of greater value are the relationships I have been able to create and the mentorships I have  developed with people through this position. Even halfway through my term, I can say that serving my community has helped me to learn about the school system as well as myself. I honestly believe the greatest benefit to the SMOB is being trusted to represent your peers where it really matters.

What are the general expectations of the SMOB?
General expectations include serving on a committee, which is usually the policy committee, and attending committee meetings. The SMOB also attends community meetings, regular Board meetings, and any other pertinent meetings of the Board.

Is the SMOB required to attend every Board meeting?
As SMOB, I do not have to attend every Board meeting. I do not attend meetings on certain restricted topics. There are also committees on which I do not serve, and thus do not attend those meetings.

What types of issues do you vote on? Are there any issues you can’t vote on?
I am able to vote on a variety of issues, ranging  from resolutions on the recognition of holidays to policy. I am not allowed to vote on issues related to redistricting, budget or personnel matters.

How do you learn about the issues you have to deal with/vote on as SMOB?
A week before each regular Board meeting, a Board packet is delivered to my school, and I pick it up at the main office. It contains the agenda, and all of the papers and information items that relate to the matters on the agenda. The packet is usually about 1-  to 2-inches thick. If I have any questions on the information presented in the pack, I can contact the people who are responsible for answering questions on particular topics, and go from there.

Who do you turn to for guidance in your role as SMOB?
I often turn to other Board members for guidance, since we essentially have the same role. I also find it very useful to contact the Board administrator as she has been wonderful about keeping me on track and answering any questions I have.

If you could give advice to a future SMOB, what would it be?
There are no wrong questions. Don’t hold back. Remember who you’re representing. Have fun. Make the position yours.