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What is the State Board of Education and how does it work?

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It has become increasingly important to understand what the New Hampshire State Board of Education (“SBOE” or “the board”) does, how to follow its activities and how to communicate with its members.  Here is an overview.

The SBOE is made up of seven members, one from each executive council district and two at large.  Members are appointed by the governor, approved by the executive council, to four year terms and can serve up to twelve years total.  Here are the current members and their terms and here is the contact information for each.  Each January, the governor appoints a chair of the board.  This can be any board member and requires no executive council approval.

Unlike in most states, the New Hampshire SBOE has no staff.  The New Hampshire Department of Education (NHDOE) serves as the SBOE staff.

The agenda for each board meeting and all of the non-confidential documents in the board packet are available here.  Videos of all meetings available here.

Here is the statute detailing SBOE authority.  This statute lists the board’s duties.  In general, the board is responsible to review all NHDOE programs and advise the commissioner on everything about New Hampshire public education.

SBOE is the sole New Hampshire entity responsible for making all rules needed to implement New Hampshire statutes.  Here is the statute listing all the areas of SBOE rulemaking.  Here is a step-by-step description of the SBOE rulemaking process, administered under SBOE direction by NHDOE.  SBOE rulemaking must conform overall to the New Hampshire rulemaking process specified in RSA 541-A.

The rulemaking process always includes opportunity for written public comment and at least one public hearing.  Click here to email comments to SBOE members and NHDOE staff.  Your email will become part of the SBOE public record.

SBOE adopts the academic standards that serve as the basis of the annual statewide assessment required by state statute and federal law.

One specialized category of the board’s rulemaking is establishing the certifications for educators and administrators.  The board appoints a 20 member Professional Standards Board (PSB), staffed by NHDOE.  The PSB is authorized by RSA 186:60 to advise the State Board of Education in these areas and drafts teacher certifications, among may other duties outlined in the statute.  PSB membership, agendas and minutes are here.

SBOE hears appeals and issue decisions on any dispute between individuals and school systems or the department of education. For instance, a parent might appeal a local decision in a bullying, manifest educational hardship case. SBOE also decides disputes between school districts, between school districts and teachers and between school districts.

Any citizen can comment in the public comment period at the beginning of each board meeting.  Here are some guidelines:

Address a topic of current relevance to the board.  There is no reason not to address any issue of concern to you.  However, you can have a greater impact by addressing issues the board is most concerned with at a given moment and that are on the current agenda.  

Address the substance of the issue (vs. the politics or motivations).   Disagreeing with the position the board or the commissioner has taken is important.  Talking about the motivations of the board members themselves or the commissioner himself would undercut the policy point.

Use written remarks, five minutes maximum.  Written remarks keep you organized and have a greater impact because they can be accurately reflected in the board’s minutes and be referred to in the future.  While five minutes is the time limit, still, the shorter the better.

There will be no questions.  The board’s policy is to ask only questions of clarification.

Stating an affiliation is ok but does not actually advance the issue.  It’s actually better if you present yourself as a concerned individual.

Emails should convey your own take. It’s fine to quote others but generic emails that sound like part of a campaign do not have much impact.

Address the board itself.  The education commissioner is not on the board.  He attends the meetings as staff to the board.  If your concern is some action of the commissioner, you are addressing the board because you are urging the board to take or prevent some action.  So it’s, “Mr. Chairman, I think you should…”  Or “State Board members, I think you should…”

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