Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What is the best piece of advice you received as a new board member? (NSBA)

Several years ago NSBA asked experienced board members to share insights about their first year of service on a school board.  The following ideas may help make the transition a little more productive.

Good luck and enjoy your service to public education.
  • Get to know what your role is as a board member, develop yourself in many ways, set goals for yourself, be positive, know your limits, and above all listen. -- Jo Ann Beamer, board member, Ohio
  • Do not be in a hurry to do something. It takes time to develop governance skills. -- Jill Wynns, board member, California
  • I am only one of five voting members and not a power of one. -- Richard Asadoorian, board member, California
  • Read and learn your board policies and state law regarding school boards. -- Ginny Moe, board member, South Carolina
  • Remember, you were elected by citizens. Try to carry their voices and needs. -- Cynthia Shabb, board member, North Dakota
  • Once a decision is made you should support the decision. If you disagree, try to change the decision. -- James R Dykeman, Jr., board member, Massachusetts
  • If it is not good enough for my child, it is not good enough for any child. -- Bill Kress, board member, New York
  • Read your school state laws and codes and ask questions about anything you don't understand. -- Terisa Fitzpatrick, board member, Illinois.
  • As long as you are working in the best interest for the students, vote your conscience. -- Mary Mathes, board member, Indiana
  • Read everything and to be prepared. -- Iris Lane, board member, Virginia
  • If you feel like you are overwhelmed, you are micromanaging. -- Jim Butt, board member, Pennsylvania
  • Be respectful of the opinions and positions of your fellow board members. -- Scott M. Johnson, board member, New York
  • Your primary constituents are the students -- who do not vote. -- Charles Wilson, board member, Virginia
  • Change takes time. Start slow and build to fundamental change. -- Sheldon Wigdor, retired board member, California
  • Don't surprise your superintendent or the staff with questions at board meetings. Give them a heads up that you will be raising an issue so that they will be prepared to speak about it. -- Jeff Phillips, board member, North Carolina
  • Don't take things personally. -- Vanessa hatcher, board member, Illinois
  • Recognize the difference between policy and procedure. -- Bill Culbertson, board member, Kentucky
  • Create alliances with each board member, learn what they care about and how to present ideas to each and every person to speak to their beliefs.  -- Mary S. Cunningham, board member, Virginia
  • Vote based on facts and data, rather than getting caught up in the politics or trading votes. -- Kyle K. Walker, board member, Oregon
  • Be open to listen from all stakeholders before making up your mind. -- Raymond Eng, board member, New Jersey
  • Go to the state association certified training as soon as possible. -- Peggy Taylor, board member, Missouri
  • At Board meetings don't respond immediately to criticisms or complaints -- Kathleen Oxberry, board member, Pennsylvania
National School Boards Association

Friday, June 12, 2015


The elections are over and school boards across the state of Kansas will have organizational meetings early in July.  It is important to understand from the start that team effort and cooperation is the recipe for successful boards. Listening to patrons and staff and working with district leadership to serve students are important tasks of which board members must be mindful.  And, above all, board members must keep their focus on continuous improvement and student success.

 A Good Board Member
                 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

  • Is legally a board member only when the board of education is in session.  No one person, unless authorized, should speak on behalf of the board.
  • Avoids administrative decisions or attempts to second-guess the administration.  The superintendent is the chief administrator and the board has no administrative function.  (This is a difficult concept for some patrons and staff to comprehend so board members must be patient.)
  • Is well acquainted with school policies.
  • Should vote at all times in the best interest of children of the school district.  Quality instruction and student learning should always be first on the "agenda."
  • Is flexible and realizes there are times when changes must be made, when tradition cannot be honored, and when pressure must be ignored.
  • Remembers that board business at times requires confidentiality, especially in processes involving personnel, land acquisition, negotiations, and need for security. (Patrons and staff do not always understand this point and board members must be patient with them when they must refuse to respond to some questions.)
  • Is interested in obtaining facts, but remembers also that the administration has the responsibility for operating the schools rather than spending full time making reports to the board or an individual board member.
  • Is a good listener at board meetings, on the street corner, in the church, but NEVER commits him/herself, the board or the administration. 
  • Remembers that there is a chain of command in the district and always insists that patrons and district staff follow that chain when concerns are registered. (Patrons and staff are not always pleased to hear from a board member who tells them they must follow the chain of command when complaining or wanting to get something changed.  They will offer many excuses as to why a board member should "solve their problem" so board members must be patient but unyielding.)
  • Has a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at him/herself when things look bleak.
  • Is able to sift fact from fiction, to sort out rumors from realism and to know the difference.  A gullible board member is ineffective.
  • Is able to support a decision when it is made.
  • Is aware that if he/she has children in school or a relative who is employed by the local district that it will be imperative to work harder to follow items 1 - 12 above than a board member who does not have an relative employed by the district.

The old anecdote “we are only as good collectively as we are individually” rings true.  Be a great board member and be part of a great board team.