The Board and Superintendent Team

By Del Stover

Almost without fail, Heath Morrison meets weekly with his board president -- and sits down with individual board members about once a month. The superintendent of Nevada’s Washoe County school district responds to their telephone calls, sends out information packets, and trades ideas with them at monthly board meetings and the occasional planning session.

That’s a job in itself for a busy schools chief. But Morrison says good communication is key to keeping a school district’s leadership team moving in the same direction -- and feeling good about working together.

“The relationship between a superintendent and school board is a lot like a marriage,” he says. “You have to be diligent to make the relationship positive.”

Such diligence is paying off. Washoe County school leaders feel better about their working relationship, and they’re proving to be more effective. Since Morrison was hired in 2009, the board has developed a code of ethics, set new strategic goals, and brought in consultants to train it in school governance. They’ve weathered serious budget challenges while continuing to focus on academics, which resulted in a 12.5 percent jump in the graduation rate in about a year.

It’s a good start for this new leadership team, and a hint of what’s possible when superintendents and school board members build a strong, dynamic partnership -- a “game- changing” meld of management and governance that brings new energy to a district.

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