As 1997 begins in the RISD, we realize that in a few short months, we will be experiencing another election for two places on the school board.

The school board is made up of seven individual members elected from the RISD to at-large positions for three-year terms. These terms are staggered with two or three places being up for election every year.

A school board member is a volunteer who serves without compensation. A candidate must meet certain requirements to be eligible to run for one of the places.

A vital part of being a school board member is understanding the training requirement, the role of the school board in Texas, and the time commitment involved.

Senate Bill 1 requires new board members to complete 16 hours of certified training in required areas of governance, finance, etc., and experienced board members must complete 11 hours of training each year of their tenure. A new training requirement involves the team of eight members (including the superintendent) in three or more hours of team-building. As in most jobs, the required training is far short of the training needed to be a responsive and effective board member.

The primary requirements of a school board are setting the budget, hiring the superintendent, setting the vision and direction for the education goals of the district, and establishing the policies by which the district is governed. Communication with district residents is a primary responsibility of the board and is one of the more difficult areas to accomplish. Town meetings, forums, committees, reflector groups, surveys, newspaper, RISD View, PTA newsletters, Richardson Instructional Television, annual reports, publicly held school board meetings, telephone hot lines, school marquees, and school newspapers are some of the ways communication is carried out in the RISD. The board members are always available by phone to talk with school patrons (voice mail 301-3500).

Currently, the district has two important items that are noteworthy.

In a unique technology initiative, the RISD is currently selecting a group of approximately 400 staff members to serve as “Technology Trailblazers.”

These teachers will participate in ongoing training and previewing of new technologies and software, while developing instructional models to implement technology in the classroom for their schools and the district. In exchange for these added responsibilities, each Trailblazer will receive a laptop computer.

Eventually, every RISD teacher will be assigned a laptop after demonstrating a specified level of technological proficiency.

Applications for the district’s Richardson Youth Leadership program will soon be distributed to RISD sophomores. Students selected as program participants will learn about leadership in business, government, education and their community. Business and civic leaders also join the students for seminars and panel discussions.