Ongoing Training for School Boards

By Doug Eadie

The better educated and trained your school board members are in the work of governing, the more likely they are to perform at a high level. So every board that is committed to high-impact governing also must be committed to its own continuing education.

When dealing with board professional development, you face two basic challenges:

• First, how can you make sure that new members are well prepared to hit the ground running, rather than spending their first year learning the ropes?

• Second, how do you keep board members’ governing knowledge and skills up-to-date so that they are able to participate productively and creatively in ongoing board capacity building?

The good news is that you could not ask for a better group of students than your fellow board members. The great majority of board members I have observed over the years have been avid lifelong learners who are sincerely committed to doing a top-notch job of governing.

This shouldn’t come as any surprise, when you reflect on the kind of bright, high-achieving people who tend to make it to the boardroom. Slackers they are definitely not.

The bad news is that many if not most board members, in my experience, are at least initially reluctant to make much of an investment in developing their own governing knowledge and skills once they have gone through the basic orientation.

This is ironic when you think about the critical leadership role that we expect boards to play and their tremendous impact on school district performance. The very people who would not blink an eye at investing handsomely in administrator and faculty education frequently question whether they should devote time and money to their own governing education. As far as I can tell, this is, in part, misplaced altruism -- as in: “What happens in the classroom has first claim on our limited dollars.”

Whatever the cause, high-impact boards overcome their reluctance. They recognize that under-investing in developing their governing knowledge and skills is a classic penny-wise, pound-foolish course of action.

Subscribers please click here to continue reading. If you are not a subscriber, please click here to purchase this article or to obtain a subscription to ASBJ.