Summer Fun for Board Members

Summer fun for a school board member is clearly different from the regular kind.  Sure we like to take vacations, travel, spend time with our families, you name it.  We do that, too, but one other task is thinking about the coming year or years and what kind of strategic goals are needed to continue growth for our district.

Here are just a few things I’m thinking about this summer.  Between sips of ice tea, trips to the pool, or innings at the ball park, I’d welcome YOUR thoughts, as well.

1. This past January, our Board passed a resolution supporting standards for effective school governance .  Here they are again with some embedded questions on whether a board is actually doing things that are measurable and aligned to the standards.  There are six major categories and if we had just one goal in each, something that was measurable and that involved our community of stakeholders, I’d be thrilled.  Here are some ideas (one for each category):

  • Increase collaboration between our board and the key local stakeholder groups
  • Increase collaboration between our board and other area boards
  • Increase communications for greater transparency and building trust
  • Hold more frequent strategic planning reviews to confirm progress and alignment
  • Establish and conduct a board self-evaluation
  • Increase the opportunities for two-way dialog with stakeholders on important subjects

2. It should be obvious to anyone who participated in the selection of our new superintendent that we were NOT looking for someone who would bring radical change to the district, but someone who would continue to propel us toward the greatness we know we can achieve.  All of our candidates were excellent and none were the “clean house” type.  Our district made a major, positive shift in direction under our current leadership.  We’re proud of their accomplishments and want to continue them.  This speaks highly of them, and hopefully of the board members who saw this vision, too.  Nevertheless, there are always strengths to accentuate, weaknesses to alleviate, opportunities that arise for us to attend to, and threats that must be mitigated or prevented.  I believe Dr. Darlene Davis did a fine job of outlining many of the programs enacted under our current strategic plan in her end-of-year summary, but I’ll openly list a few more items here that have my attention…between ball games.

  • Strengths:  A community and workforce that clearly believes in high quality education and understands that quality, competitive schools require hard work, collaboration, and adequate funding; our strong support for balanced educational experiences (i.e., solid academics with arts and/or sports and/or technical skills); we hire, support, and expect excellence; a strong regional focus on education that leverages our multiple institutions of higher learning; and the strengths of our diverse population (not just racially, but culturally, economically, ideologically).
  • Weaknesses: The current economy, a lack of volunteerism and involvement in our schools, a tax base that relies too much on property taxes, a state legislature that continues to mandate change without adequate funding and is failing to act on a sustainable retirement system, a lack of collaboration between school boards for a single, regional voice and for game-changing practices that build on local school leadership and our knowledge of local economics and local needs leading to regional political strength.  (See this post and, in particular, the figure to understand this point better.)
  • Opportunities: Our ongoing reconstruction and the opportunities to review land use, to incorporate best practices for school facilities to bring new technologies and methods for learning, and to incorporate the most cost-effective energy practices; increased awareness that early preparedness makes a huge difference in school performance (see the book “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell for more on this); the impending contract renewal and the chance to grow our level of trust (see this book), collaboration and the degree of common benefit across all of the stakeholders as outlined in a recent set of guidelines.
  • Threats:  The economy (again) and the slow rise out of a recession brought on by gross corporate malfeasance and weak regulatory oversight, the popular media and entertainment conglomerates with their emphasis on self-satisfaction instead of building a proper sense of enlightened self-interest needed in a democracy that demands and thrives on education.  (I don’t want to sound too puritanical about this, but some of the things I see are ridiculous.)

Just a few big rocks to pound on, but I truly hope you’ll share your big ideas.  Putting this stuff out for public view is dangerous only if it used to tear down, rather than to build up.  Please build with me…and have a great summer!