A Guide to Excellence in the Boardroom

By Susan Black

School board president Carol Frank left her post at the 1,500-student Marcus Whitman Central School District in upstate New York with a parting message: “I have learned that excellence in the classroom begins with excellence in the boardroom.”

During her tenure, the board hired an assistant superintendent to oversee K-12 curriculum in the district’s four schools and revised the budget process to focus on the district’s primary mission: educating kids.

Frank urged the new president and board members to “move to a higher level of governance that is truly student centered.” And she advised them to make teaching and learning the board’s top priority, noting the district’s “mediocre to poor student achievement” despite the board’s high per-pupil spending.

In Arkansas, Danna Schneider, president of the Clarksville School District’s board of education, said board members used the National School Boards Association’s Key Work of School Boards to examine “all aspects of a school board’s functions.” The board grappled with its shortcomings and then developed a mission statement, a vision, and a plan to encourage community involvement in Clarksville’s five schools.

Schneider says the board is concentrating on improving teaching and learning. It’s exerting stronger leadership over curriculum, making policies to fit with federal and state requirements, and holding public forums to discuss the future of the schools.

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