Asking the Right Questions
By Charles K. Trainor
After World War II, American soldiers returned home to settle down and raise families in communities across the nation. For many, the transition from military to civilian life was a welcome, if difficult, adjustment. In addition to taking advantage of the GI bill to attend college, people focused on their home and social lives. Television was still a novelty. Entertainment and amusements were largely homegrown activities.
One of the more popular parlor games at the time was 20 Questions. The goal of the game is to identify an object by asking 20 or fewer questions. One person secretly chooses an object. The others take turns asking “yes” or “no” questions. The key to winning is to ask good questions.
The same is true for you. Of course, when board members ask questions it is not a game, but rather a serious effort to provide oversight of district programs while safeguarding assets. Thoughtful questioning will yield the information necessary to determine whether your district is meeting its educational and financial goals.
Unlike the game of 20 Questions, though, your inquiries will require significantly more than “yes” or “no” answers. For example, some answers will determine the district’s commitment to ensuring ethical behavior, and therefore will include a discussion about codes of conduct. Other questions will focus on evaluating business practices and internal controls. You will be reviewing financial reports as well as payroll and human resources functions. Preparing effective questions will assist your board in fulfilling its oversight responsibilities.
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