Money Matters: Board Training Pays Off

By Glenn Cook

No matter which term you attach to it, school board members find their work often comes down to a simple cost-benefit analysis, in which you weigh the price of doing something against its long-term benefit.

Of course, outside factors and forces can and do affect this process, making what should seem simple on the surface thorny and difficult to achieve in the real world. Sometimes, boards succumb to those forces and make what are considered, in retrospect, shortsighted decisions.

One area that has proven vulnerable, especially in tight times, is professional development. That tide, however, seems to be turning. Districts looking to move the needle on instruction are finding that professional learning opportunities for staff are more important than ever.

But what about professional development for school boards?

Today, more than 20 states require board members to receive some type of formal training. As your work becomes more complex, due largely to increased state and federal regulations that affect K-12 public schools, this move toward mandatory training comes as no surprise.

Most state-mandated training focuses on matters such as school finance and management. In Georgia, for example, annual training is required to keep board members up to date on the latest changes on law and policy, says Justin Pauly, communications director for the Georgia School Boards Association.

Even if training is not required by law, board members “should never apologize for looking for high-quality professional development for themselves,” says Nicholas Caruso, senior staff associate for field services for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE).

“You can approve invoices and field trips all day long, but that does not allow the board of education to have an impact on student learning,” Caruso says. “Training helps you make better decisions, learn to spend your time on appropriate things, and leave the district better than when you came.”

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