Are You Committed?
By Lon Garrison, Director of Membership Services
Are you committed and prepared to be the best school board member you can be? Do you want to help your students achieve success in school and life? Do you take your role as a school board member seriously? Is being an active, effective advocate for public education and student achievement a priority to you? Are you willing to work with your fellow board members to make a difference?
If you answered yes to these questions, then you are the board member willing to be committed to doing what it takes. This often means it requires a sacrifice on your part to devote the time and energy to do the work and educate yourself on your role and responsibilities.
Unfortunately, we at AASB have seen a growing trend that not all board members share this dedication and commitment to their students or their constituency. More and more board members are missing meetings, workshops, or opportunities for training. There is less a sense of teamwork versus a mentality of “I already know what is best,” and “only my opinion is right.” Or, “it’s okay, I’m just one person, and I have more important things to do.” The fact is, only the board, acting in a lawfully conducted meeting has any authority. No board member has any more authority than any member of the public. The best decisions are when everyone participates.
As a locally elected or appointed school board member, you committed to being willing to serve on behalf of your local community in a governance role within the public education system. Your reliable, active participation is just as important as knowing that the superintendent shows up every day to work. You are as necessary for the system to succeed as any of the district employees are, and your community is relying on you to represent them.
At AASB, we know this takes work, time, resources, and education. That is why we are here. We want you to be successful in your role and help you improve the system for all of your students. Our primary purpose is found in our mission statement, and it drives everything we do:
The mission of the Association of Alaska School Boards is to advocate for children and youth by assisting school boards in providing quality public education, focused on student achievement, through effective local governance.
At AASB, we offer a wide variety of opportunities for board members to educate themselves and to practice good boardsmanship. Let me review some of the options for you and your board to consider.
AASB offers a series of 8 to 10 webinars starting in January and running through May (usually 2 per month). These are discussions of topics relevant to your understanding of your role as a board member. They are typically hosted by an AASB staff member and either an accomplished school board member from around the state or an “expert” of the topic being covered. The webinars are free, take place during the lunch hour, and last approximately 50 minutes. Each one is recorded and posted on the AASB website for future reference. Here are the topics we cover:
- The Role of the Board
- Board Standards
- The Superintendent – Building a Relationship
- Working with the Board
- School Finance
- Working with the Community
- School Law
AASB staff can visit your district to provide customized board development. One of the most common and impactful exercises we facilitate while on site is a board self-evaluation. It is one of the few times board members have the opportunity to discuss with their fellow members how well the board is working and what challenges need to be addressed. It is time for honest, open, and forthright conversations. Also, we often review and discuss the board’s bylaws. Other topics may include but are not limited to roles and responsibilities, budget process and oversight, strategic planning, parliamentary procedure, conducting effective meetings, etc.
AASB also has staff specifically specializing in community engagement, social-emotional learning, and cultural responsiveness. These professionals are part of our Alaska Initiative for Community Engagement.
AASB Conferences and Academies
AASB offers four boardsmanship academies for board members, each one focusing on various portions of our board development curriculum. (
- Fall Academy (late September), alternates location between Anchorage and Fairbanks, is two days in length and covers topics such as curriculum, personnel, community engagement, etc.
- Annual Conference (early November) this is always held in Anchorage and is the largest, most comprehensive conference offered. The main conference is three days in length (Friday through Sunday) and features a keynote address on Friday and Saturday. There are multiple concurrent sessions on nearly every topic critical to school boards. AASB business meetings and our adoption of resolution process occur at this conference. There is a pre-conference day (Thursday), which provides specific training for new board members (Ready, Set, Govern!) or the Experienced Board Member Academy. Also that day, many AASB committees meet to do the vital work of the association such as resolutions, budget, nominations for the AASB board of directors, and AASB governance program awards committee.
- Equity in Education and Winter Academy (mid-December), hosted in Anchorage, this 2-day academy uses one day to focus on issues such as negotiations, policy, budgeting, advocacy, etc. and one day dedicated solely to topics associated with education equity.
- Leadership Academy and Legislative Fly-in (Early February) this is always held in Juneau and is the start of our advocacy work with the state legislature. The first day is an academy dedicated to board leadership such as leading change, parliamentary procedure, advocacy training, etc. The second day is used to orient board members to current legislative issues and process, and to prepare for legislative office visits the next two days.
- Spring Academy and Legislative Fly-in (late-March) this is always held in Juneau and is the second opportunity for our advocacy work with the state legislature. The first day is an academy dedicated to various board topics such as CTE, collaboration, board standards, assessments, etc. The second day is used to orient board members to current legislative issues, the process and to prepare for legislative office visits the next two days.
In recognition of all of this work a board member may undertake, we have the Carl Rose Boardsmanship Awards Program. This program tracks each board member’s attendance and participation in each of the board development opportunities, including those outside AASB such as the NSBA national conference. Three levels of boardsmanship are recognized, Basic, Excellence, and Master.
It is only through this conscious practice and learning that board members across Alaska can hope to achieve our association mission. Are you willing to be committed to doing what it takes to improve student achievement? Are you committed to serving the public that elected you?
We at AASB are committed to helping you become the best board member and the best school board you can be. WE ARE THERE FOR YOU!
# # #