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What Makes a School Board Member Effective?

Stacy Bogard

By Stacy Bogard, CAE, MASB Assistant Director of Communications, PR & Marketing

DashBoard, May 16, 2018

Even the most experienced board members never stop learning the technical details of the job, and those who are successful learn early that being effective requires more than knowing the details of the tenure law or how to interpret the budget. Being a successful board member begins with a genuine commitment to striving for high-quality public education that supports the full development of all children. While most school boards will be comprised of individuals from different backgrounds and experiences, individual school board members can be more effective when they exhibit:

  • A thoughtful, sincere and deliberate approach to the position. The effective school board member seeks first to understand the issues, knowing that their decisions have a tremendous impact on their communities.
  • A constructive attitude toward teamwork. The effective school board member understands that he/she has no legal authority as an individual. It’s only around the board table that decisions are made and a board member exercises any authority.
  • The willingness to spend the time necessary to be well-informed on the issues coming before the local board and to remain reasonably knowledgeable about local, state, national and global education.
  • The ability to represent the entire community and not surrender to special interest or partisan political groups. The “entire community” includes citizens who may not have a direct relationship with its public schools.
  • The temperament to respond accordingly and appropriately through challenging events. Board membership is an immense responsibility, so the public actions and words of its members will impact the district, its image and integrity.
  • The willingness to listen thoughtfully to others. Although board members can’t be expected to agree with everything colleagues and constituents say, they’re expected to listen respectfully to their opinions and concerns.
  • The willingness to express one’s own opinion and participate in discussions openly and honestly while encouraging and respecting the free expression of opinion by colleagues.
  • The maturity to respect the confidentiality of privileged information and to take no private action that would compromise the board or administration.
  • The willingness to model continuous learning by taking advantage of professional development opportunities, such as those offered by state and national school board associations.
  • The willingness to abide by and support the board operating procedures as adopted by the board.
  • The ability to identify, recommend and encourage prospective candidates and mentor new board members to become effective school leaders.
Get on Board

This last point is especially applicable in an election year. MASB’s Get on Board grassroots campaign is focused on encouraging civic-minded, student-focused individuals like you to give back to their community and to help advocate for and improve student achievement through board service.

MASB needs your help in order for this campaign to be successful. The filing deadline is July 24 and it will be here before we know it. The sooner we start identifying and recruiting those who have the potential to be effective board members, the better off our districts and students will be.

So, if you have a vacant position on your board, think of your family, friends and community members—is there someone that you think would serve well in that role? Share this list with them, point out some of their similar characteristics and encourage them to Get on Board!

For more information and resources, check out the Get on Board microsite. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact MASB at getonboard@masb.org or 517.327.5900. 

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