Want to Be a Better Board Member? Think Statewide

By Norm Wooten, AASB Executive Director

In my thirty year involvement with the AASB Board of Directors as a board member, association officer, staff member, and now the executive director, I have been associated with hundreds of school board members who serve on the AASB board. I have participated in and listened to, dozens of conversations that centered around the role of the AASB board.

The role of an AASB board member is very different from being a local school board member. It took me awhile to understand the difference fully. I’ve observed others as they made that transition as well.

A local school board member is concerned about the education of students within their district boundaries. This view may be more difficult in a district with multiple sites, but it remains a local responsibility.

There are several significant differences in serving as an AASB board member:

  1. AASB board members are no longer directly responsible for students. They are responsible for ensuring good governance for school board members. Good governance creates effective local school board members, who then can positively affect students in their respective districts.
  2. AASB board members in their roles are no longer responsible for one local school district. They must weigh decisions through the lens of how it will affect every school district in Alaska.
  3. Finally, AASB board members must serve as role models for how a local school board member should govern their district.

As I’ve observed AASB board members over the years, I am continually amazed at how seriously they take their responsibilities. In my own experience, attaining a greater understanding of the governance role of an AASB board member, made me a better local board member.

Most come to the AASB board with a certain amount of trepidation over the size of the board. How will we ever accomplish anything with a fifteen-member board? And yet the mutual respect of board members quickly overcomes any parochial feelings or special agendas. It is a delight to watch a vigorous debate with widely disparate positions on an issue. Few decisions are unanimous, but once the vote is taken the majority prevails and the board moves forward with no malice or ill will toward one another. Isn’t that the model we want all local boards to follow?

So what makes the AASB board such an effective group of people? Very simply put, the board understands their role and the limitations of their authority. Each member realizes that they are a membership organization and that they serve the members.

The AASB board understands they have four guiding documents that direct both board actions and the work of the Association. Two of those documents are “owned” by the membership, and two are “owned” by the board.

Membership Documents

  1. The Constitution and Bylaws (C&B) belong to the membership. This is a document that forms the basis for every action and position of the Association. Everything the board does must comply with the C&B. The C&B Committee is chaired by the AASB Secretary/Treasurer and includes four additional at-large members, one from each judicial district. Each year the committee reviews the Constitution and Bylaws and recommends any changes. The board of directors at their summer meeting accepts the report from the C&B Committee. However, the board cannot change the report. The report is presented to the Delegate Assembly at the November annual conference. The Delegate Assembly can accept, deny, or amend the recommendations of the C&B Committee. The important thing to remember is that the Constitution and Bylaws belong to the membership and can only be changed by a properly seated Delegate Assembly.
  2. The Resolutions prescribe the positions of the Association. These are considered by the Resolutions Committee the day before the annual conference and then debated on the floor of the Delegate Assembly. There are specific Delegate Assembly rules adopted at the first meeting that guide the debate. Once the resolutions are adopted, they guide the advocacy efforts of the Association for the coming year. The membership provides our direction.

Board Documents

  1. Just as in a local district the AASB board has Board Policy that guides their behavior and the operations of the staff. Board Policy can be amended by the board at any time, just as in a local district. However, the policy must comply with the Constitution and Bylaws. The AASB board, when faced with a decision, always asks the question, “what does our policy say?”
  2. The board also has goals that guide their work. These are reviewed every three years and are called AASB’s Pathways. The goals are in alignment with the Resolutions passed by the Delegate Assembly.

These four documents are an essential and necessary element of why the AASB board remains an effective governance arm, no matter who is serving on the board or who is employed in the office. The organization has clear guidelines, and they are utilized as guidance documents serving as the roadmap for AASB.

The AASB board is commended for their work and attention to responsibility. They serve you, the membership, well and with integrity.

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