How to Speak to a School Board

by Julie Collier

So you are fired up and want to make your voice heard. Go for it! You can follow your heart or follow the steps below to help you effectively get your point across. Good Luck!

First, know that you (and everyone else) are going to feel a bit frightened. Please keep in mind that if you feel strongly enough to speak, there is probably a group in the audience that feels the same way you do. You will have support from someone in the audience. One way to calm your nerves is to think of the hardest thing you have experienced in your life (childbirth, surgery, sick family members, etc.) and know that speaking your mind to an audience is easy in comparison!

Here are some general guidelines on school board meetings:

  • You may speak to the Board on any subject that falls within the District’s authority.
  • If you wish to speak before the Board, most boards will ask you to fill out  a speaker card at the beginning of the meeting. Ask where you can fill out and submit a speaker card.
  • If you wish to speak to about a topic in the agenda, write the agenda item on your speaker card.
  • If you wish to speak about something not on the agenda, you will speak in general or miscellaneous comments.  This time for open comments is usually at the beginning of the school board meeting, but sometimes it is held at the end.
  • Speakers should plan to arrive early because some Boards anticipates covering items where there are no speakers signed up at one time at the beginning of the meeting.

Here are some tips to writing a speech:

  • Always write something down on paper.
  • Have 2 pieces of paper. On one piece of paper, start with the point you want to make and add two or three reasons to support your point. That will be your guide to writing your speech. Now, on the 2nd piece of paper write an introduction with your name and school your kids attend. Next, state your point and why you are concerned.
  • Write about your reasons to support your issue and the steps you think your School Board should take to solve your issue.
  • Finish your speech with a solid conclusion. Reiterate your point of view, the steps you think the School Board should take, and why it is important to listen to you.
  • If you can, type your final speech in a large font. Using a larger font will help you stay on track as you are reading your speech.

 

Take some time to practice your speech and time it. School districts usually have a time limit on public speeches. Do not worry about memorizing it. Just read what you wrote. While you are practicing, remember to use a tone that is strong, but not threatening. The members of the board will automatically stop listening if they feel you are scolding them. So sound strong, but not rude. Do not forget to review the rules of your school board regarding speaking to the board. You can usually find the rules on the district website.

Now that you have written your speech, practiced your speech, and reviewed the board rules, you are ready to go! Arrive early and bring water (leave the gum at home). It always helps to bring a friend or two for support.

When they call your name, take a deep breath and slowly release it. As you are speaking and you feel your voice shake or fade, stop for 3-5 seconds and take a deep breath. The audience will not notice 3-5 seconds (even though it seems like an eternity to you). When you finish your speech, thank the board and give yourself a pat on the back. You have just accomplished something most people would never do. The best part-you did it all for your child!

Good luck and send emails of your success to be featured in our website.