by Dr. Pat Greco
Elections impact schools and communities in ways few realize. Intentionally reaching out to potential board members can position the full board and leadership team for stronger relationships as the new board forms.
Board relationships change as new members join. Working together, leaders and continuing board members can welcome newly elected community members and proactively sustain connections. New members have limited scope of their “roles” as “one member of a board,” and they hold a narrow view of the “work of the system”.
Communication and outreach are important; yet the political climate sometimes leaves board members, leaders and staff, uncertain about how to be proactive. Actions taken can help new board members “see” the importance of staying focused on the “work of the system” rather than chasing isolated pieces while building a foundation for strong team work.
Superintendent/Senior Leader Check-in with your seated Board
The leadership “site line” for classroom teachers often stops at the principal. In larger systems, staff may have limited access to the superintendent and less contact with the Board of Education. Yet staff members closest to the work (teachers, support staff, principals) can have significant impact on messages carried across communities. Board and staff can have a role in managing up positive messages.
The rounding or check-in process is an exceptionally strong tool in building and sustaining Senior Leader/Board Relationships. It is also a great way to manage up the work of the system and the full Board with staff; helping all staff feel connected and hearing positive messages from board members.
Quarterly “check-ins” with each board committee
Scheduling a quarterly check-in reserves the time for the board to reflect on the progress being made, keeps their input active on adjustments that can be made, and provides a structure for the board to recognize staff for their service. This quarterly reflection is a proactive way to center the “board and leadership” as a committed team working toward Organizational Excellence.
It can be healthy for the superintendent to schedule individual check-ins with board members a couple times a year using the same check-in questions. Positive reflections can be managed up with full staff giving “line of sight” to the superintendent and board.
Share the Board Shout Out in the Superintendent E News:
“The board is sending their personal thanks to our High School Custodial Team for their exceptional service during Band Review. Your personal touch with set-up was evident and your warm welcome to families was noticed. Your work helped our students shine.”
Including board members in giving “shout outs” to staff helps personalize the board members’ commitment to service and makes them “human” to all staff. The check-in process operationalizes a commitment to building a strong culture together.
Build a Process Prior to the Elections
In preparing for elections, ask continuing board members to help with the mentoring and on-boarding process for new members. Elections can be dicey; members currently seated may lose their positions on the board. The board will need support “norming” the changing group in order to “perform” together going forward. Engaging the board in the process can build relationships more quickly.
Continuing board members can be helpful in answering “frequently asked questions” regarding board service and roles and responsibilities while demonstrating positive team norms.
Annually, commit the time to having each board member share their backgrounds and skills that they bring to the board as well as what they hope to contribute in the year ahead. This helps everyone see the individual members as committed stewards to the full community creating a foundation for a strong team moving forward.
Host a parent/community meeting
“Have you considered Running for the Board?”
Schedule this session a month prior to when candidates need to “declare to run.” Notification can go to parents and members of the community through the district website, newsletters and a press release. Focus on the important role of board service. Board Officers, key senior leaders and the superintendent can host this meeting.
Active parents may attend simply to learn more about the work of the board; as well as curious community members. It is helpful to know who is intrigued with board service. This offers the board and leadership the opportunity to build broader community relationships, highlight celebrations and reinforce the commitment to serving the community. By keeping a roster with contact information, it is possible to tap into these interested community members for future advisory committees and community focus groups as they form.
Board Officers and senior leaders can manage up the work of the board, leadership and the full system with community members considering board service.
Include a “Strategic Update” highlighting points of pride and the key work ahead in the improvement process. The process is a visible representation that organizational excellence is a “team” effort and this team is focused on fostering healthy relationships.
- Introductions and Welcome with a Sign-in Sheet
- Strategic “State of the System” Points of Pride & Key Work Ahead (15 Mins)
- Commonly Asked Questions (Board President Facilitates)
- Introduction of Senior Leaders (Org Chart and Who Does What)
- Contact Information
- Filing Laws and Process Documents from the State Election Board
Remember to send a thank you note to each community member who ran for the board. A word of thanks highlighting the willingness to dedicate time the broader community is a positive reminder of the role the board serves.
Annually, host an executive session with the Board and Cabinet Level leaders. It is important to orient new board members, and re–orient the continuing board members, to Nine Principles of Organizational Excellence and the framework for Evidence Based Leadership. Once again, start with the positives by beginning this session with a “Plus/Delta” on the past year of work together.
Plus, “what has worked well over the past year?”
Delta, “what might we change to make us even stronger as a team?”
Highlight the Nine Principles of Organizational Excellence by asking the board and leaders to highlight principles that have been “hardwired” into the work of the system. This process helps the full Board and senior leaders lead based on principles centered on the whole system.
Hardwire the Individual Board Member and Board Committee Check-ins. The process allows each board member to engage in celebrating the work of the system and work with leadership on barriers or challenges. Communities thrive when the board and the leadership team lead well together.
Pat Greco, Ph.D is the Senior Director of Thought Leadership for Studer Educatio. She is the retired Superintendent of School District of Menomonee Falls. If you have any questions or would like to share a topics of interest for a future columns, please email Pat Greco, at firstname.lastname@example.org,.