New Board Members Get Supercharged at Ready, Set, Govern!
By Jenni Lefing, AASB School Climate and Conference Coordinator
Around 45 new school board members & superintendents attended this year’s Ready Set Govern! (formerly known as Board Room Boot Camp) at Annual Conference.
This day and a half was filled with sessions to help board members build on their skills while connecting and learning alongside School Board Members from around the state.
The first day began with attendees having the chance to meet other board members through a gathering activity, where board members had to greet 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.
These conversations laid the framework for the first session centered on “What does it mean to be a school board member?”
To start, you are expected to be part of the decision-making process for your district as soon as soon as you come on board. But, in order to be effective at this, as a school board member you need information, skills, and resources, and need to realize that:
- You have gone from being a candidate to being a board member.
- You were previously a private citizen and now you are a public official.
- You went from working on your own to being a member of a new team- the school board.
As a school board member, decisions can only be made by the team, not by one member. And, the decisions that school board members make, center around these four key areas:
- Hiring and evaluating the Superintendent
- Setting and approving the district budget
- Reviewing and adopting curriculum
- Developing and adopting policies to govern the district.
Each of these key areas were explored. This included Dillingham City School District’s Superintendent Dr. Jason Johnson and School Board President Kimberly Williams sharing what they do to have an effective superintendent-school board relationship; good communication is key.
Dr, Mary Wegner, Sitka Superintendent, talked about what a school board member’s role in the curriculum is. She discussed considerations that school board members can think about to help ensure a transparent and public process around developing or adopting curriculum:
- You are the experts on policy and state mandates, and your guidance is necessary,
- You should ask questions to ensure that the committee is meeting the goals and objectives of the district.
- Rely on the experts within your district for the specifics
- Listen to the viewpoints of community and committee members.
Board members also heard 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.
School board members then had time to reflect on their insights into what they learned about their role as a school board member, and discuss what their role as a board member is in school board meetings- the place where the board has the power to make decisions.
While a great deal of information was shared throughout this year’s Ready, Set, Govern, it really is just ‘tip of the iceberg,” of what being a school board member is all about. Learning all the ins and outs is a process, and takes time. I encourage attendees to continue to learn by asking for a school board member orientation for your board (if you haven’t had one yet), attending AASB’s free first-term board member webinar series (starting in January), and attending a future in-person training- at one of our boardsmanship academies held throughout the year. Details on all of our trainings can be found at aasb.org
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