Welcoming New Board Members

By Timi Tullis, AASB Associate Executive Director

Congratulations to your newly elected board members! It is an exciting time for boards as these new members join your team. Providing new board members with the information they need to perform effectively is the next critical step in developing a strong board. New members need to be given a systematic, planned out, introduction to the workings of the school board to help them make informed decisions. 

Boards should consider inviting the newly elected board member to sit with the board in all of its meetings after the election, and before their first official meeting. Take advantage of the new members’ interest by asking for their thoughts and goals for the district. 

Many newly elected board members are familiar with the schools, have attended board meetings, and have developed views regarding the needs of the district’s educational program and facilities. No matter how involved new board members have been in the past, they need additional information to complete their understanding of the district and the workings of the board.

  • Be sure to encourage newly elected board members to attend the Association’s Ready Set Govern training scheduled during the Annual Conference. This program, combined with an orientation plan from your board, will provide newly elected board members with an introduction to the roles and responsibilities of school boards. 
  • Highlight the AASB, on line FREE webinar series for new members. These webinars build on the training from the AASB Annual Conference, focusing on timely issues, including the relationship with the board and the superintendent, as well as the board’s judiciary role. 

Make the Orientation Specific to Your Board

1. Alaskan Board Members are fortunate to have Board Standards as a guidepost for the responsibilities and operations of the school board. Each of the standards, Vision, Structure, Accountability, Advocacy, and Conduct and Ethics, provides indicators that can help new members understand their role in the district. A copy of Board Standards is a must for each new board member and given to all who attend the Ready Set Govern training. 

2. Be sure that your orientation plans include explanations to newly elected members on their responsibilities in areas such as:

  • policymaking 
  • curriculum, 
  • student achievement, 
  • community relations, 
  • planning and goal setting 
  • budget preparation, 
  • meetings, 
  • superintendent selection and evaluation. 

For each of these areas, outline the process and timeline your board follows, and provide that information to the new members. For example, make clear how the agenda is developed for your board meetings, and how a member requests an item to appear on that agenda. 

3. Most boards provide new members with the policy manual or how the manual can be accessed online, but not all provide a description of the process the board uses to develop, revise and evaluate its policies. If a major responsibility of your board is policymaking, it makes sense to describe how, when, and why it happens.

4. Share your board’s timelines as it relates to not only policymaking but also instructional programs and curriculum, reviewing student achievement data, site visits with the superintendent, planning and goal setting, budget preparation, superintendent evaluation, board self- assessment and AASB’s professional development opportunities such as the Leadership Fly-In and the Fall, Winter and Spring Academies.

5. Fulfilling the responsibilities of a board member often requires the acquisition of new skills. Most people do not come fully prepared to take on these new responsibilities. Board members may need skill training in group decision making and parliamentary procedure. Tell new members about the way your board receives information, develops, and discusses agenda items and makes decisions. Clearly explain the expectations of your board regarding communication among board members and between the board and the superintendent. 

6. Provide new members with sufficient information on the district’s policies, curriculum, budget, facilities, programs, evaluations, assessments, contracts, and structure. Let them know how the district works and what it has been doing. A policy manual, budget, contracts, facility report, curriculum guide, student handbook, and list of board and district goals should be provided before the new member takes office. 

The board should consider scheduling a series of information sessions for the new members with the President, Superintendent, and other key administrative staff. Begin each meeting with an overview of the topic and then answer the new member’s questions.

Most importantly, be patient. Your new colleagues may not know as much as you do about the work of the board and the goals of the district, but they share a commitment to your schools and community. They also bring new energy and a breath of fresh air to the board. Help them begin to make their contributions as soon as possible.

On this page of our website, you can access our suggested “New Board Member Info Sheet” that can help you with this process. https://aasb.org/board-development/

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