The Perfect Board Retreat

By Doug Eadie

Retreats are a popular vehicle for involving school board members, superintendents, and senior administrators in high-impact governing work that could not be accomplished -- at least not as well -- in regular board business meetings. The return on your district’s investment of time, energy, and money can be quite powerful.

But how can you ensure that these retreats lead to the desired result, both in terms of substantive outcomes (an updated vision statement) as well as process spin-offs (esprit de corps, satisfaction, ownership of and commitment to future directions), and even emotional bonding among participants?

Just because you assemble the right cast of characters in an attractive setting away from district headquarters for a day or two does not mean you will automatically realize a powerful return on your investment, however. Experience has taught me that rigorously following these four golden rules will ensure your district gets a handsome payoff without taking a significant risk:

• Make sure the board is involved in putting together the detailed retreat design.

• Employ a professional facilitator.

• Use well-designed breakout groups to generate content, promote feelings of ownership, and generate active participation.

• Avoid reaching a premature formal consensus or making final decisions.

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