Editors note: The regional school accrediting agency has taken issue with the actions of members of metro Atlanta school boards, including DeKalb County’s school board. Reporter Newspapers asked Mark Elgart, chief executive officer of AdvancED, parent of an accrediting agency that oversees local schools, to discuss the role school board members should play.

Mark A. Elgart, Ed.D.

Governance and leadership is critical to the success of any school or school system. The capacity of a Board of Education to work in concert with the leadership of a school system is a critical ingredient to establishing the proper conditions for a quality school system.

Although board members are elected to serve on the Board of Education by their voting constituents, the position is not one of an elected official in the same sense as a state representative in government.

The position on a Board of Education should be guided by service rather than politics. A member of a Board of Education should not have a defined group of constituents, but rather contribute to the board in fulfilling its role and responsibilities so that the school system effectively serves and supports all students.

The Board of Education is designed to support the leadership and its administration of the school system. It is not the role of the board to assume any function related to the administration and management of the school system. However, the Board of Education (as a whole) should and must hold the superintendent accountable for effective administration of the school system.

Boards of Education fulfill their role during the course of appropriately planned work sessions, public meetings, and, when appropriate, board retreats. When individual members elect to operate outside planned activities of the Board of Education, it causes disruption to the work of the board and the management of the school system, which is the sole responsibility of the superintendent and his/her staff.

In fact, serving on a Board of Education should not be viewed as a job. The employees of the school system have jobs to fulfill for which they are held accountable. Every board member has the responsibility to actively participate in planned activities for the Board of Education. In such activities, the administration seeks to benefit from the board’s collective feedback, direction and appropriate decisions.

The AdvancED Standards for Quality define responsibilities and expectations for effective governance and leadership. Schools and school systems choose to be accredited, and in doing so, ask AdvancED to ensure that they are fulfilling all the requirements of an effective school or school system through the accreditation process.

As part of that process, AdvancED Accreditation examines the institution’s teaching and assessing practices, the purpose and direction of an institution, whether data is used to support improvement, resources and support systems for students, and whether its governance and leadership are functioning effectively in accordance with established policies.

AdvancED recognizes those institutions deserving of accreditation, while at the same time encouraging and expecting them to demonstrate continuous improvement for the betterment of all students.

Dr. Mark A. Elgart currently serves as the founding president and chief executive officer for Advance Education (AdvancED). AdvancED drives education improvement through research and innovation, policy and advocacy, technology and accreditation, serving over 32,000 institutions and 20 million students worldwide. It is the parent organization of the K-12 division of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), which accredits the schools in DeKalb and Fulton counties.