Why does an individual or group organize a recall or vigorously campaign against an incumbent in a school board election? There's no easy answer. But board recall efforts and politically motivated campaigns against incumbents often have similar characteristics, such as the existence of an organized opposition group or effort that goes beyond a tradtional campaign. Even when board recall efforts fail, they can still affect morale and student achievement.
Why Board Culture Matters
A school board’s most critical responsibility is to safeguard the public’s trust in public education. That trust hinges on a clear, unerring organizational mission to educate all students and challenge their level of achievement. Once that trust is lost, it is difficult to regain it. Allowed to go unchecked, boardroom dysfunction will erode the public’s trust.
Building a Culture of Trust
Culture—that amalgam of traditions, beliefs, and norms—is the essence of a school district. Good school boards develop and set policies that affect and enhance the district culture. It’s incumbent on the board president to take the lead in making sure both students and staff embrace that culture.
Still Committed to Committees
Which works best, governance by a school board acting as a committee of the whole, or by a board working through a committee structure? When I was superintendent of a small district, board members and other administrators agreed that the committee system was very successful. The big question, however, remained: Would this system also work in a large school district?
Free to Focus
Would you like to use board meetings to concentrate on student achievement and respond to public concerns and demands for accountability? Finding a structure that will help the board president run meetings in an orderly fashion is a first step in that direction. One such structure is the consent agenda, which can help boards streamline meetings so they can spend more time on important matters.
The Ethical School Board
Sure, you know not to commit the Seven Deadly Sins, but what about the more subtle temptations? How do you prevent board members from behaving badly? Well, you can't, of course. But if a board has done its homework—if it has engaged in ongoing professional development to explore the members' beliefs and define the board's goals—it will be much easier to act with authority.
Finding the Best
Improving student achievement is the desire of parents and teachers, and it is the foundation on which the No Child Left Behind Act is based. But what is the magic that results in some districts having a strong board-superintendent leadership team that focuses on doing just that? How to attract and retain outstanding school board members.
The Change Challenge
The only constant is change, as you no doubt already know. Dealing with change is one of the biggest challenges you face as a school board member. Changes come in two forms: as opportunities, and as threats. Sometimes, change represents both opportunity and threat, depending on your perspective. The federal No Child Left Behind Act is an excellent example of such a change. How you deal with constant threats—and opportunities—will determine your effectiveness as a board.