For Boards, Practice Makes Perfect

Timi Tullis, AASB Associate Executive Director

While leading the Experienced Board Member Academy during the Annual Conference in November, sessions were focused on the relationship between the Board and the Superintendent. During one of the presentations, someone said that the Board, just like a sports team, has to practice. Not just once, but continuously. Even experienced Boards need to continue to grow. Once an election occurs and new members join the Board, it is time to dig in and practice even more.

When we review the Board’s role in policy, personnel, curriculum, and instructional material, the Superintendent’s evaluation, and many other roles, AASB staff feels like a broken record repeating the same things over and over. HOWEVER, just like a coach reviewing play after play with their team, we at AASB realize how important consistent repetitive messaging is to our membership.  

How can a Board ‘practice’ their roles and responsibilities so they can be a top-notch Board? What will help you become ‘state champs’ or, in our terms, “Board of the Year”? Here are a few tips from our team.

  •  Each year a Board needs to orient and continue to onboard their newly elected members. This is the job of the Board alongside the Superintendent, but Boards need to take the lead and not rely on the administration to do this work. Do more than just hand the new members a book and expect them to read and understand their roles. Hours of discussions will help new members understand not only what they should do in their new role, but also get an understanding of YOUR Board and its culture.  
  • Remind the entire Board that their only ‘power’ is when they are seated as a board at an officially called meeting. No individual Board member has any power to direct anyone on staff, including the Superintendent.  
  • Attend the FREE webinars that AASB offers to help members understand their roles. Even for veteran members, these webinars can be beneficial and act as a reminder of what they can and should be focused on to improve your Board. These are included as part of your membership fees, take advantage of them. 
  • Annually commit to ongoing professional development for the Board as a whole. The Board can all attend the AASB Annual conference together and sit and share what they learn. Another option is to have a facilitated annual Board work session where every member attends and spends time learning together with fellow members.  
  • Hold work sessions to dig deeper into specific topics the Board feels they need to learn more about.  
  • Being an an elected official comes some responsibilities. Do what is asked of you as a member. Fill out the Superintendent’s Evaluation, return the Board self-assessment for tabulation, read your packets and come to the meetings prepared. The job of a Board member is not to be taken lightly. There is a time commitment, and members MUST each take the time to become stronger members.

One of the biggest complaints we hear is that ‘not everyone feels that the work session/conference/ is important, and they don’t attend.’ Indeed that can be frustrating. Returning to the analogy of a sports team, if a key player isn’t at practice, it is hard to practice all the plays, i.e., all members need to learn the essential aspects of being a Board member.

Remind members that after they win the election, the real work begins. Newly elected members need to understand the obligations of their new “job.” As mentioned previously, members must fulfill their duties. If one or more members don’t do what they’re supposed to, the team will lose and, in the end, the youth in your district will lose.  

Do you and your Board do the things listed above? If so, you’re on your way to being a top-notch Board. If you can’t answer yes to the items above, it is time to ‘practice’ and become a better Board. AASB is here to help you at any time.