Leadership In the Time of Coronavirus
By Timi Tullis & Lon Garrison
Based on an article from the Texas Association of School Boards.
With the uncertainty surrounding the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the public is looking to their school district leadership teams to provide a unified message to employees, parents, and the general public. We hope to outline a few key elements that boards should focus on during this crisis.
- Focus on good governance!
- Provide unified messaging.
- Stay informed and be transparent with the Open Meetings Act (OMA) and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
- Be flexible and willing to learn/adapt to new virtual meeting venues.
- Support your fellow board members and superintendent – be a friend.
Meetings, events, and regular routines are being interrupted all over the world. They have likely changed in your district as well. Providing education and delivering services may look different than you have seen before. Your district may even need to provide services that support the work of emergency management in your area.
We understand there is deep concern about reaching our students that don’t have access to the Internet, maintaining individualized instruction for students with disabilities, and providing meals and medical services for our most vulnerable students. And this is just the tip of the iceberg for districts across the state.
Your board and superintendent have crucial and unique roles to play as this unprecedented event unfolds. With the situation changing daily, best practices are as important as ever.
Here’s what school board members can do to serve their district best.
THE SCHOOL BOARD AND SUPERINTENDENT SHOULD STAY CONNECTED
Social distancing is the watchword, but boards need to stay together, even if at a distance. It is clear that in-person meetings are not an option at this time, but it is vital to keep in touch with your governance team members. Stay connected with your community. They are looking for your district’s calm and capable leadership.
One way for school boards to do this is to meet by telephone or video conference to fully comply with social distancing recommendations and any restrictions on gatherings.
As your board navigates important decisions while complying with the Open Meetings Act and protecting public safety. The leadership team should be thinking about how remote meetings will work when trying to involve the wider community as well. Proactively seeking community partnerships (private and public) to extend web access into the community is one option to explore. We recently offered a webinar on how to run your meeting remotely, and here is the link in case you missed it last week.
As your team discovers what works best for remote meetings and distance learning, share those best practices and resources (digital or analog) with us, and we will share with other districts.
LET YOUR SUPERINTENDENT LEAD
This is the time for your superintendent to manage the district, and they need your support. They will need the latitude to make most decisions in a very timely fashion.
The current situation may demand quick action that cannot wait for Board approval each time. Your board policy provides this opportunity. Check it out (BP 9314).
Allow your superintendent or another designated spokesperson to continue to be the voice and face of your district. Relying on the chain of authority as a best practice is as important as ever.
There’s no need to publicly challenge your superintendent’s decisions right now. It only leads to more confusion in your communities. However, the board still has a very important oversight responsibility. Therefore, stay in regular contact with your superintendent, and call emergency board meetings only when the meeting is necessary for the good and welfare of your district. Make sure expectations for communication and future board approval is clearly expressed.
THE LEADERSHIP TEAM SHOULD KNOW THE MESSAGE
Make sure your district maintains a unified public message, and remember to let your superintendent or other designated person be the official voice of your district.
Promote messages that are:
- Supported by your full leadership team
- Clear, calm, and reassuring
- Factual (Here’s what we know, here’s what we are doing, here are organizations we are working with.)
- Shows leadership in communicating about health practices (not just school stuff). Schools are often the primary source of information about health and nutrition
Take the extra time to connect with your community, too. Share positive, reassuring messages through video on social media. Share hope, gratitude, and compassion in a world facing panic and a pandemic.
ONLINE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES FOR SCHOOL BOARDS
AASB is focused on everyone’s health and safety as we continue to monitor the implications of COVID-19. We’ve created a page of resources for your district, parents, and staff during this challenging time. https://aasb.org/coronavirus-resources-for-districts/
AASB staff is all working remotely, and we are here to assist your district as much as possible during this time, so please don’t hesitate to reach out.
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