School board membership prerequisites, while varying by state, generally include United States citizenship and voter registration, state residency for a minimum of one year and a minimum age requirement of 18 years old. Residence with a current board member or legal relationships with the school district generally preclude membership.
Depending on the state and school district, residency requirements range from 30 days to three years. Legal relationships precluding membership include employment or contracts with, or claims against, a district. Most states require that eligible candidates submit a nominating petition with signatures of registered voters who support the candidacy. Districts in New York state, for example, require signatures of 25 qualified district voters or 2 percent of those voting in the past election in order for a candidate to file for election.
In addition to the legal prerequisites, school board membership requires adherence to an established ethical code and avoidance of even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Strong community relationships, effective communication skills, and the ability to read and understand detailed information are essential to effective board membership. Board members must set aside personal interests in support of board decisions and devote the time necessary for board meetings, community outreach, and the review and analysis of an array of complex information, including budgets, personnel data and educational standards, prior to decision-making.