Preparing You For Public Leadership

Nebraska has close to 2,000 citizens who have been elected to serve their community on their local school board.  A volunteer job, in addition their day to day activities, where they are responsible for setting policies, goals and procedures for their district, as well as hiring and evaluating the Superintendent.  School boards in Nebraska consist of anywhere from 5-9 members, with the majority having 6-member boards.

Every two years, half of Nebraska’s school board positions come up for election.  It is important to make sure those running to fill, or challenge those positions are both qualified and prepared for what to expect.

Roles and Responsibilities of Board Members:

If you are elected, you and your fellow board members’ actions will have far-reaching results.  School board decisions can only be made by a majority of the members at a public meeting. From the moment school board members begin service, they are accountable to the public, to the state government, and to the courts.

A school board is a team, and your contributions to the whole are critical to the overall board’s effectiveness.  Here are two rules to keep in mind as you consider running for your local school board.

  • Learn to count to four: An individual has no authority by themselves. Only when you get to four (the majority of an average 6-person board) does anything matter.  That being said, don’t focus on winning issues. Educated, cohesive decisions, including the entire board, as well as the Superintendent are what is most important.  
  • Get Over Yourself: On any board, each member will have their own way, but must work together as a team.  Issues based candidates are good, but not if they get elected and stay issue based board members.  A strong board member is someone who is a communicator and listener within the community, all while being able to have their own informed, independent judgment.  

While each member of the school board brings an individual style of leadership, there are certain characteristics that contribute to successful board service.  These include: 

  • A sincere interest in public education and a commitment to improving student learning.
  • Understanding the importance of public education to our democratic society.
  • Bringing a creative, forward-thinking approach to education and offering sound solutions.
  • Having a broad base of knowledge and experience.
  • Understands that education is complex. 
  • Respected and involved in the community.
  • Listen and consider opposing views before making decisions. 
  • Willing to invest the many hours necessary to meet the responsibilities of board service. 
  • Serve unselfishly to benefit the whole community. 
  • Respect associates and the group decisions of the board. 
  • Understand their authority and responsibility. 
  • Honor and respect diverse cultures, abilities, learning styles and human needs. 
  • Engage in professional development programs to expand knowledge of education and strengthen governance and leadership skills. 
  • Are strong advocates for the education of all children in the state.

How to be a Successful Board Member

To be a successful board member you must:

  • Do your homework before every meeting.  Prior to each meeting, you will receive a board packet to prepare your for the evenings agenda. 
  • Do your best to attend every meeting.
  • Stay current and informed on all local, state and federal education issues.
  • Take part in board training programs, and networking opportunities.
  • Attend other community meetings when possible.

As one long-time school board member best puts it ... "Take Your Turn, It’s Worthwhile Work."


To be eligible for election to public office in Nebraska, you must simply be a registered voter and reside in the ward, district, city, or county, etc. for which you want to run for office.  To register to vote, you must: 

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be at least 18 years of age on or before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November
  • Live in Nebraska
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, or if convicted, at least two years have passed since the completion of your sentence for the felony including any parole term
  • Have not been officially found to be mentally incompetent
  • Reference: 

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