Making Change Work for You

By Doug Eadie

Consider this scenario from the hypothetical Pleasantville Independent School District. The three school board members and the superintendent who made up the governance fine-tuning task force, along with their governance consultant, sat at the front of the boardroom. They were facing the four other board members and several senior administrators.

This special three-hour board work session was the culmination of a four-month process of coming up with concrete recommendations aimed at clarifying the board’s governing role, modernizing its committee structure. They also fine-tuned the board’s participation in such key governing areas as strategic planning and educational performance monitoring.

The task force members were well prepared, having spent two hours earlier in the week running through a presentation highlighting the key points in their action report, which had been divvied up among the three board members and the superintendent. One of the board members serving on the task force had questioned the need for the “dress rehearsal,” but changed her mind during the session, realizing that practicing standing up and running through the slides was essential for an effective presentation.

During the presentation, the task force board members and the superintendent fielded a number of questions from their colleagues. Interestingly, the task force consultant only spoke up a couple of times over the course of this three-hour session, clarifying some technical points about the recommended superintendent evaluation process. Task force members were ready and able to carry the ball themselves, in command of the content of the recommendations and well rehearsed. What a dramatic contrast with a couple of board work sessions earlier in the year, in which staff and outside consultants working on the district’s updated strategic plan did all of the presentation, while board members played the passive-reactive audience role.

At the end of the presentation, the task force board members read and moved approval of a number of implementation resolutions, which the school board passed unanimously. By resolution, the board adopted several new initiatives, including a board governing mission setting out the major governing functions of the school board; a new board committee structure (planning, monitoring, and external/community relations); a set of guidelines for committee operations (for example, regular rotation of committee chairs and members); and a new process for board evaluation of superintendent performance.

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