The Secrets of My Board Success

Lynn Hamilton

Ask yourself, “Do I enjoy being on the school board?” If the answer is “no,” you need to make a change. Modify how you handle the job or remove yourself from the board. Life is too short to voluntarily do something you don’t enjoy.

If you approach the job correctly, being a school board member is an incredibly rewarding experience. Board members who know they’re helping students are enthusiastic and express how much they enjoy their work. They are the ones who, more often than not, hear the words “thank you” from their constituents.

I served for 15 years on Arkansas’ North Little Rock school board, learning a series of hard-won lessons along the way. I enjoyed the work, and observed how board members—good and bad—did their jobs. Having been off the board for a few years, I spent some time reflecting on my service and developed some recommendations that you might find helpful.

Listen and respond

Successful board members are good listeners, but they’re discreet. When someone voices a complaint, listen carefully and politely. Let the person know you understand the situation and, if the criticism seems legitimate, encourage them to take their concern to the proper authority. Under no circumstances should you say anything critical about the schools because your negative comments will be magnified and spread as gossip.

When someone brings you a concern, suggest some form of immediate action. However, you must not do an administrator’s job. Often, your best option is to make a referral to the superintendent and offer to follow up if the person is not satisfied. Responding quickly, however, is critical. A slow or nonexistent response tells the person you really aren’t too concerned.

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