Excellence in education through exceptional school board governance

Trustee Election Handbook

PDF version

This handbook outlines tools and strategies school boards can use to promote the October 16, 2017 school board elections.

WHY: promoting school board elections

  • School board elections are a great way to raise community awareness and interest about the importance and value of locally-elected school board trustees. There are numerous other benefits:
  • People in your community become more aware of the significant decisions school boards make, how they contribute to public education and the role of the trustee
  • Everyone – not just parents of school-aged children – starts discussing the education issues facing your community and why those issues matter
  • You can share your school division’s compelling story of challenges and achievements, and the ways in which you have worked together as a community to ensure a quality education for every student
  • Residents understand local community input is vital to help shape local education delivery and their voice matters
  • Locally-elected school board trustees are the voice of their community and closest to the residents they serve

WHERE: resources available online

For school boards

Attracting candidates and promoting the election

(before Nomination Day: September 18, 2017)

  • Handbook to promote the October 16, 2017 school board elections
  • School newsletter article
  • Media release (DOCX–17K)
  • Letter to the editor
  • PresentationSo You Want to Become a School Board Trustee? (PDF-623K)

Getting out the vote

(From now to Election Day, October 16, 2017)

  • Action plan
  • School newsletter article
  • Media release

For candidates

HOW: drafting your local promotion plan

The materials in this handbook will help you develop and customize a plan that works for your school division. You may also wish to enlist the help of ASBA’s Communications Services.

Here are some of the key areas to include:


What is the objective of your plan, beyond raising awareness about the upcoming school board elections? Review your 2013 election plan, including the post-election evaluation. What went well, and what needs improvement this time around? Consider your definition of a successful election.


How do you intend to raise awareness and create excitement about school board elections? Your website and print outlets, including your school newsletters, are great places to start, but the ease with which you can share content on social media makes it a must to include in your plan.


School and education communities are great places to start when promoting the upcoming election, but there may be others you haven’t previously considered. What about your local Chamber of Commerce or business association, community league or sports connections? All of these communities have active, engaged volunteers who will invest the time and deeply care about making a difference.


You’ll have three different areas of activity: pre-election; election (from nomination day to election day) and post-election, so you may want to divide your plan into these three sections.


While the temptation is always to begin with tactics, you’ll want to consider the previous key areas before beginning or updating your list of tactics. Consider new media applications not available in 2013.


Begin with the end in mind. Your evaluation needs to include qualitative and quantitative measurements of your objective, approach and tactics. You should also include a summary report that can help you – or your successor – develop a robust local election plan for the next school board election.

Key dates*

Nomination day September 18, 2017 

Election day October 16, 2017

* This is the general municipal and school board election date across Alberta in 2017; however, there may be local exceptions. Ensure all prospective school board trustee candidates are aware of the day and timeframe in your school division to file their nomination papers, the date of your local school board elections and any localized requirements.

 WHO: strategies to attract candidates

Nomination day is Monday, September 18, 2017.

That may seem like a long way away, but now is a good time to start thinking about how you want to raise awareness and attract potential new candidates.

Reach out to school councils

Members of your local school council are a great place to start, since they are already interested in and passionate about education. Even if they don’t want to run, they likely know someone who does.

  • Host an information evening especially for school council members. Talk about what school board trustees do, what it’s like to serve on a school board, who is eligible to run and the importance of the school board’s work in the community. Share the Become a School Board Trustee brochure and include time for questions and answers. Consider a panel of former trustees who can share their experiences and the rewards of the role. Your local school council and the Alberta School Councils’ Association are also good sources of information.
  • Ask to present at upcoming school council meetings. The ASBA PowerPoint presentation, So You Want to Become a School Board Trustee? can be used or adapted to fit the time available.

Reach out to your schools and communities

  • Submit an article to your school newsletter editors, highlighting trusteeship and the opportunity to be a candidate. The ASBA school newsletter article template can be customized to suit your jurisdiction.
  • Consider a short series of feature articles from some of your current school board trustees, highlighting some of their most memorable experiences. Those articles can be shared in school newsletters and also in your local newspaper.

Reach out to community leaders

Your community is full of passionate, engaged residents who would make great school board trustees. Numerous community associations often have special events and invite guest speakers. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Chamber of Commerce or local business association, Rotary Club and other service organizations. Many local chambers of commerce and Rotary clubs have a weekly or monthly breakfast meeting for their membership and prospective members.
  • Community leagues and local sports associations often have fundraisers and other events, including barbecues, bingos and casinos. In particular, organizers tend to be natural leaders who may be looking for other ways to make an impact.
  • After-hours community sports and recreation programs are another great place to connect with potential future school board trustees.

Reach out to your current trustees

Current trustees can be excellent ambassadors of what it’s like to be a trustee and the rewarding experience they have enjoyed in serving in their local community. While trustees want to be careful not to campaign, especially if they plan to seek re-election, their enthusiasm as they speak generally about their role will inspire others to consider running. In particular, they can talk about the importance of public education to your community; describe the impact the school board has on the local community and outline opportunities for involvement.

Other ideas

  • Distribute the Become a School Trustee brochure to schools, the media, libraries, town offices, doctors/dentists offices and other public reception areas.
  • Prepare a reading corner for potential candidates at your jurisdiction office. Set out copies of the Become a School Trustee brochure, jurisdiction policies, information materials and the School Act.
  • On your jurisdiction website, post a link to the candidate information on ASBA’s website.
  • Prepare a local information package for potential candidates. You may wish to include the following items in this package:
    • Copies of the materials available for candidates on ASBA’s website.
    • Local school board information, such as:
      • upcoming meeting dates, including your school board and school council liaison meetings;
      • your jurisdiction’s education plan;
      • your jurisdiction’s organizational chart;
      • a description of how education is funded in Alberta;
      • your jurisdiction’s nomination and election guide;
      • a list of voting stations in your jurisdiction;
      • a key contact for follow-up questions.

Work with your local media

Place ads in your community newspaper, and consider digital ads, such as Google and Facebook. Let your local media know what you are planning to do and why. Here are some other ideas:

  • Talk to your local media about your board’s efforts to generate more candidate and voter interest in the 2017 school board election.
  • Arrange for some of your trustees to be available for a “day in the life of a school board trustee” feature story. Be prepared to give concrete examples of recent board contributions to public education in your community. This is a great opportunity to shine the spotlight on a trustee who is not planning to run again.
  • Your Board Chair could write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, talking about the rewards of school trusteeship, and encouraging community residents to consider running.
  • Talk to your local media outlets about their coverage needs on election night and your election planning.
  • Ensure print outlets have a current, high-resolution version of your school jurisdiction logo.
  • You may wish to obtain a quality, high-resolution colour head-and-shoulders photo of every school board trustee candidate, along with their biography, for use in local media and other promotional materials, and secure each candidate’s written permission on a release form.
  • Think about how you will ensure election updates and final results are posted on your website in a timely manner, and how media can obtain that information. Will you post live updates, and how often?
  • Ensure you send a Media Advisory to all local media outlets no later than two weeks before election day and follow up with local editors to ensure they received it. This advisory will contain details of how media can keep apprised of your school board election updates and final results as well as relevant media contacts.

Use your jurisdiction website and digital/social media

Have an election section on your website, and ensure you have a prominent link to this section from the home page of your website. Provide as much information for prospective trustees as possible, and ensure this information includes an advisory on where and when they can pick up nomination forms and who they can contact for more information. Repost this information on digital and social media, and encourage others in your network to share it as widely as possible. Enlist the support of the schools in your jurisdiction, encouraging them to post a link to your online election materials on their school website.

WHEN: getting out the vote (GOTV)

Late spring is a good time to begin getting out the word about the upcoming school board elections, and the importance of getting people out the vote.

In June

Include a short article in all school newsletters, informing parents and families of the October school board elections. In addition to encouraging parents to consider running themselves, the article’s content should point to your jurisdiction’s website and where to find timely election information leading up to election day.

In August

  • Include a short article in the first school newsletter of the new year in September, outlining dates for the election and advance polls as well as where to find more information on your website.
  • Include a second reminder article for October school newsletters.
  • Send a letter or email to all school councils, your ATA local and community groups, offering to help advertise all-candidate election forums and other events. Follow up with a phone call to ensure they received the information.
  • Post your jurisdiction’s information about election day on your website, including promotional information about the importance of voting. Include times and locations of advance polls and election day polls, as well as the required identification residents need in order to vote. Include the contact information for your local returning officer so those with questions know who to contact.

In September

  • Ask your schools to promote advance polls and election day on any public-facing signage they may have.
  • Consider partnering with a neighbouring jurisdiction to place ads in your local newspaper or use digital media. Advertising on buses, Facebook and Google ads as well as electronic billboards, such as those used by community organizations, are also low-cost ways to promote the elections.
  • Following nomination day, send out a media release advising of the slate of candidates running for election. Include the biographies and colour photos of each candidate in your backgrounder.
  • If you have a Twitter account, consider and begin using the hashtag you will use on election night in all of your printed and online materials.
  • Send out your pre-election media packages three weeks before election day (one week after nomination day). Include bios and colour photos of all declared candidates.
  • Make sure all media contact information on your website is current, and include your mobile number for media calls on election night.
  • Create or update your list of media contact information for election night. When you are talking to each outlet, find out what worked last time and what needs improvement for this election, so you can better meet their information needs. Ensure each contact knows how you will be providing timely information on election night and how they can reach you.

In October

Consider pitching various story angles to local media, to help raise the profile of school board elections, such as:

  • A “day in the life” of a school board trustee;
  • The role of the trustee – how has it evolved and how does it continue to change?
  • An op-ed piece or contributed article on the value of locally-elected school board trustees and an article on the importance of voting in these elections.
  • Test and ensure your election night results will be properly posted on your website. Consider a “dry run” with all those who will be involved in supporting your election night efforts, to ensure everyone is clear on their role and any issues are addressed.

On election day

  • Check in with your local media and whether they have any last-minute questions. Review your contact details and theirs when results start coming in, and your procedures for updating your jurisdiction’s election information.
  • As soon as possible, post-election results on your website. Include the disclaimer that these are unofficial results, and advise when and how these results will be made official. Be sure to include relevant contact information.


  • As soon as possible, post on your website the pre-approved biographies and photos of your new trustees.
  • Arrange for a professional group photo to be taken either at the first new trustee orientation session or at the first board meeting.
  • Host a reception for your new board after they have been sworn in. Invite community and school leaders, the media and others you think would like to attend.
  • Hold a post-mortem analysis of what went well and the areas for improvement in the next round of school board trustee elections, and ensure the information is readily available to your jurisdiction’s election lead.