This year schools will once again vote for their new board of trustees.

Nominations open next week for what the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) says is "New Zealand's biggest democratic event". This year more than 13,000 people are needed to fill positions on boards of trustees at 2500 schools throughout the country.

Here's everything you need to know about the election process.

Q: What is a board of trustees?

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A: All of New Zealand's state and state-integrated schools have a board of trustees. The board of trustees is the Crown entity responsible for the governance of the school. The board is the employer of all staff in the school and is responsible for setting the school's strategic direction in consultation with parents, staff and students, and for ensuring that its school provides a safe environment and quality education for all its students. Boards are also responsible for overseeing the management of personnel, curriculum, property, finance and administration.

Q: Who sits on a school's board of trustees?

A: A school board includes between three and seven parent-elected representatives; the principal of the school and one staff-elected representative.

In schools with students above Year 9, one student-elected representative will sit on the board. And in state-integrated schools, up to four trustees can be appointed by the proprietor.

The board can also co-opt additional trustees for gender, skill or ethnic balance.

The school's principal is the chief executive of the board, and is tasked with managing the school's operation in line with board policies.

Q: How do I become a trustee?

A: Trustees are elected by the parent community, staff members and, in the case of schools with students above Year 9, the students.

Boards of trustees must hold elections for parent and staff trustees every three years. A board may also decide to adopt a mid-term (staggered) election cycle where half the parent representatives are elected at a mid-term election.

Elections for student trustees must be held annually in September in schools with students above Year 9.

All parents with a child enrolled at a state or state-integrated school can vote in the elections for parent representatives.

Q: How do I know if I'm eligible to sit on my child's school board?

A: Parents, care-givers and people from the wider community can be nominated for election to a school board. Before anyone is elected, they are required to confirm that, to the best of their knowledge, they are eligible to be a trustee. This means they need to confirm they are not barred on good character grounds specified in sections 103 and 103A of the Education Act 1989 -- for more information and a full list of ineligibility criteria, visit: nzsta.org.nz

Q: What skills are needed to become a school trustee?

A: Trustees are active leaders in their schools and a balance of skills and experience is needed around the board table, the NZSTA says. A trustee needs to "believe in making a positive difference to our children's learning", the NZSTA says. They need to work well in a team, be able to put plans in place for the school's future, have good communication skills, and ask challenging questions. It helps to have an understanding of financial matters and be learner focussed, and have an inquiring mind, it said.

The NZSTA is also encouraging more ethnic minorities to consider joining their school board to better reflect the diversity of New Zealand school rolls. According to Ministry of Education data, only four out of 10 schools currently have Maori parent representatives on the board that fairly reflects the number of Maori students on the roll.

Q: What does a school trustee do?

A: School trustees have an active role in the governance of a school and its strategic planning. They are accountable to its parents, community and the Government for student progress and achievement.

Trustees have an important role in making sure every child achieves their potential in school. The role of a school trustee includes: setting strategic direction and long term planning for the school; monitoring student progress and achievement; ensuring effective management of staff, finances, curriculum, administration and property; ensuring the educational needs of all students are met, particularly the priority groups of Maori, Pasifika and special needs; and appointing and supporting the principal.

Q: How do I register my interest in standing for the board?

A: For those considering trusteeship for the first time, NZSTA's school trustee election project manager Janet Kelly suggests they contact their local school for more information. She also encouraged people to nominate others they think would make good trustees.

More information can also be found at nzsta.org.nz or trustee-election.co.nz, or call the information line on 0800 782 435.

Q: When does the election period start?

A: Nominations open next week, on May 6, and will stay open until May 20. The common election date is June 3, but some schools may choose a different date. Results will be declared on June 9.