Board Room Boot Camp – Your Shortcut to Expertise!
By Jenni Lefing, AASB School Climate and Conference Coordinator
Around 50 new school board members, superintendents and school district staff attended this year’s Board Room Boot Camp at the annual conference.
This year’s Boot Camp was designed to help newly elected school board members understand and feel comfortable in their new role while connecting with school board members from around the state.
The first day began with attendees having the chance to meet other board members through engaging activities, such as starting off the morning with a “greeting frenzy,” where they were tasked with meeting as many people as possible in one minute. In small groups, they then shared why they ran for the school board, and what they hope to get out of the conference.
Sessions were organized around AASB’s Board Standards, the framework that lays out the five functions of a School Boards: vision, structure, accountability, advocacy, and conduct/ethics. Attendees were given a Board Standards “cheat sheet” to refer to when needed.
Mike Swain’s first session “You’ve Been Elected, Now What?” set the stage for Board Room Boot Camp. He recognized that from the beginning that school board members are expected to be part of the decision-making process. But, to be effective, you need information, skills, and resources.
To start, members need to recognize that they have transitioned to being in the public eye, and are now part of a team – the only time the school board has power. And, to be a successful board member on a team, you need to listen, learn through training such as local school board orientation, AASB first-term board member webinars, academies, and being prepared for meetings.
Members then had the chance to delve into each of the key roles of being a Board Member, starting with Superintendent Relations. Alex Russein and Barb Jewell, Cordova School District, shared how their school board-superintendent relationship has been successful. One of their key takeaways was that it really comes down to having an ongoing relationship focused on trust and respect, which is what you would want in any relationship.
A big highlight for attendees was hearing from John Sedor on a School Board Members’ Legal Rights and Responsibilities. He led engaging conversations with attendees on many topics including when board members have power, what executive sessions and work sessions are, and open meetings act.
While a great deal of information was shared throughout this year’s Board Room Boot Camp, it really was just ‘tip of the iceberg,” of what encompasses being a school board member. Learning all the ins and outs of being a school board member is a process, and takes time. So, I encourage attendees to continue to learn from their fellow school board members and AASB opportunities so they can be the best advocates they can for their students, schools, and communities.
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