The Catalyst

By Billy Arcement

Never in the history of education has the need to be different been more important. Public schools are being attacked on every front. Political leaders view school boards as prime targets for the system’s “incompetence” and position themselves as the saviors who will make new and more positive things happen. Business leaders feel they know a better way to change the system. Parents are disgruntled and quick to complain and shout from the rooftops how little they are receiving for their tax dollars.

School board members face these realities today, and any district that places its head in the sand will soon find its rear end vulnerable. This is not to say that school districts should not change. We should and must listen to what others say, and then take appropriate action to make the change happen.

As school board members, you can serve as the catalyst or the albatross. Your performance sets the tone for how things are done and the perception that is created. By eliminating the old image of a political candidate who only creates chaos and finds fault and by taking on the new image of a 21st century leader, you can be the catalyst for positive change.

To help you cope with the challenges facing school districts in this century, I have developed a list of characteristics that effective board members possess. These ideas are the culmination of studying, writing about, and presenting programs on effective board skills for more than 20 years and the synthesis of a lifetime of study on what it takes to be an effective leader.

The ideas are presented in a checklist format for easy reference. Take time to review the five areas identified and the points listed under each section. Think about how you might rate your skills on these points and keep the list as a reminder of the benchmarks that you should continuously strive to attain.

Once a year the entire board should look through these criteria and conduct an annual performance review of its performance. Feel free to add your own ideas to the list. Customize to your specific issues and you will have a valuable tool to assess performance.

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