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Simplifying the Complex: A Guide to Understand our School Board Structure

I grew up in a small town in Nebraska, and my mother served on the school board during my high school years. So I felt like I had an understanding on how school boards were organized and functioned. Our town of 5620 people had just one school board, so it wasn’t too difficult to follow. Fast forward 30 years and I now live in a school district where there are several school boards. I will admit that I didn’t always understand the differences between them all until I really began listening to and attending school board meetings. Our school boards hold so much power in how our schools operate; therefore, it is important to understand their organizational structure.


Elementary School Boards

Each town in our school district (Exeter, Stratham, Brentwood, East Kingston, Kensington, Newfields) has its own elementary school board that oversees the elementary school(s) in the town with each having their own individual budget. Board members serve three year terms, and each town votes for its own school board candidates. If during his/her tenure a member resigns, someone will be appointed to fill the position for the rest of the current year. Then that position will be open for the remainder of the initial term. Each elementary school board holds monthly meetings.



Exeter Region Cooperative School Board

The Exeter Cooperative School Board (ERCSB or Coop) oversees the high school, middle school, Seacoast School of Technology and Adult Education, with a $65M budget. This board has members representing all towns in the SAU 16 school district, and the number representing each town is dependent on population. These members also serve three year terms and are voted in by residents from all towns. For example, as an Exeter resident I can vote for coop candidates from Exeter, Stratham, Newfields, etc., but I can only vote for elementary school board candidates from Exeter. The coop board meets monthly and also has sub-committee meetings.



SAU Joint Board

The joint board is composed of all 33 school board members - from each of the elementary school boards, as well as the coop school board. The duties of this board are the following: to elect and supervise the superintendent, act on the superintendent’s nominations for SAU professional and administrative staff, adopt policies and a budget for the SAU. In short, they are responsible for overseeing the superintendent and the activities of the SAU administrative offices. This board meets several times a year, but not traditionally on a monthly basis.



March 8 Election

In one month, voters will head to their respective towns to vote on various key issues. The election of school board members, budget advisory members and school-related warrant articles have never mattered more.


We will publish results from a candidate survey to help you understand where all of the candidates stand on important topics impacting our school district.

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