Serve on a School Board

There are 14,000 school boards around the country--and there’s no greater commitment a REALTOR® can make to improving public education than serving on one of them. School boards are grappling with major issues that affect public education. According to a survey of more than 1,000 school board members released by the National School Boards Association in 2011, the most urgent issues school boards face today include raising student achievement levels and uncovering new funding sources--issues that can have an enormous impact on the quality of life and future of communities.

Eight years ago, REALTOR® Donald G. Warner joined the school board in Upper Moreland Township, Pennsylvania, a working-class district. In 2011, he’s serving his fourth and final term as board vice president. He calls the experience challenging and rewarding--rewarding, because he’s played an active role in improving the way the board operates and ultimately improving the schools in his district. “Test scores are skyrocketing,” he says. “And we’ve been achieving all the No Child Left Behind benchmarks.” He’s been involved in issues ranging from school budgets and new school construction to successfully addressing discipline problems among high schoolers and engaging parents in raising expectations for their children’s performance. Today, the board is focused on finding creative ways to make up budget shortfalls--by improving cost efficiencies and uncovering potential revenue sources.

Janice Cavenaugh, of Wilmington, North Carolina, first joined the board of the New Hanover County Schools more than 20 years ago. “In 1987, the school board decided to eliminate all requests for school transfers involving special emergency circumstances--such as medical problems,” says Cavenaugh. “I thought the decision was draconian and lacked compassion and logic.” She started speaking out at school board meetings, and when a position on the board opened up, she was appointed. Cavenaugh not only played a role in reversing the board’s policy on emergency school transfers but also has continued to serve on the school board for 13 years now, and she has served on the federal legislation committee that lobbies Washington on school issues. Through her REALTOR® association, Cavenaugh requested--and received--RPAC funding to help with two of her election campaigns. To run, she says, “takes hard work. You have to get out and let people know who you are. But anybody can do it if you have the courage and conviction.”

Many other REALTORS® and REALTOR® association staff and leadership are past or present school board members, including the following: Armando Rodriguez, governmental affairs director, Greater El Paso Association of REALTORS®; Laura Benson, president-elect 2010, Sarasota Association of REALTORS®; Alan Mudd, past president, Jefferson City Area Board of REALTORS®; Chris Fraser, past president, Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS®; Janine McLauchlan, executive officer, White Mountain Board of REALTORS®; Joe Hassmann, Hassmann Real Estate.

NAR Tools

RPAC Funding
If you’re running for a school board, you may be eligible to receive RPAC funds through your local REALTOR® association or board, depending on your association’s RPAC contribution policies and state and local election laws governing your locality. To determine your eligibility, contact your local association’s government affairs director or executive officer. If you’re eligible, the next step involves reaching out to key association leadership and RPAC trustees to explain the rationale for why your candidacy should receive RPAC support, including your position on the issues and campaign strategy. For
more information, contact your local REALTOR® association.

A comprehensive, web-based, grassroots communication system for online member outreach, engagement, and mobilization that uses Convio software. Associations can use the “Hub” to send member e-newsletters to get them to support a REALTOR® running for school board.

Campaign Services Program2
This program provides REALTOR® associations with a range of sophisticated tools and services for advocacy campaigns and candidate support--at no or reduced cost--including access to voter files, polling and campaign consulting services, and resources for developing customized and targeted communications for association members and registered voters.

Web Resources

The nuts and bolts of how to mount a campaign.

National School Boards Association4
News and views from the national association and school boards around the country.

School Districts5
An overview of how different school districts around the country are organized.

Search the Web
Since the laws governing school boards vary dramatically from one district to the next, google your local school board to locate its website for relevant information.


See Issues in Public Education. By serving on a school board, you may be able to make a difference in addressing any of these school issues.