Finding Qualified Candidates for Your Open Positions

Stacy Bogard

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

DashBoard, June 24, 2020

Maintaining school board excellence in governance is an important concern for any community. Lay the groundwork for an effective school board candidate recruitment strategy by considering:

Great boards attract great people. Board members can make board service more attractive by focusing their attention on ensuring their boards are effective organizations. Highly qualified candidates will want to be on boards that are well run, and that focus on their primary work of clarifying the district purpose, direction and goals, and monitoring district performance.

Identify the gaps. Assess what attributes are already present on the board, and where the gaps are. What attributes are needed to achieve your objectives? What skills do current board members offer in these areas? What skills will depart with the retiring board member(s)? Where are the gaps?

Focus on diversity. If you want to bring in new perspectives and voices, think about whether your board composition really reflects the community it represents. If you’re dealing with the whole community, it’s only reasonable to have representation from across the community. Should you be including younger people? Older people? People of color, language or different ethnic background? Or consider diversifying by geographic, economic and education criteria.

Think broadly. Your next great board member might come from:

  • Citizen work groups, including advisory committees, councils and task forces
  • Members of professional and trade associations related to your organization
  • Donors and strong school financial supporters
  • Local business owners
  • School volunteers
  • Members of volunteer/service organizations
  • Staff or associates of other education providers, institutions and entities
  • Members of multicultural organizations
  • Members of local religious institutions
  • Alumni

Identify and contact people who care deeply about the district’s mission. These people shouldn’t only have the required skills but should also care enough about the district’s mission to make a significant investment of their valuable time.

Be positive. There’s no greater way to promote board service than by recognizing its altruistic benefits, i.e., the value of the board’s role, the importance of creating and leaving a legacy, and the benefits of good schools to the community. Your boards can do this at board meetings, at community functions, in district newsletters and websites, and other venues.

Turn foes into friends. Although not every opposition leader wants to be or should be a board member, consider prospects from well-spoken activists who are eager and able to speak to community issues and public policy debate.

Get them to come to you. Let the community know about vacancies or create opportunities to learn about board service by:

  • Advertising your midterm vacancies or retiring terms with the fact you’re looking for new board members.
  • Holding information days where others can learn about board service.
  • Creating and distributing a board newsletter.
  • Developing and distributing brochures about the board.
  • Preparing talking points for board member presentations to local clubs and events.
Get on Board

Encourage prospective candidates to attend board meetings. Seeing is believing and potential candidates have an excellent learning opportunity by attending board meetings, committees and other related events where board activity and interaction is on display. Invite or encourage their attendance, where candidates can observe board processes and the “big picture” of the governance role, board/staff relations, etc.

Create opportunities for citizen involvement. Some boards have citizen advisory committees, councils or task forces that provide advice and research when needed. These citizen work groups offer excellent service and learning opportunities for prospective board members. This work enables the existing board to see potential candidates in action and at the same time exposes them to the concept of the board’s work. It allows both the individual and the board to evaluate their potential at a relatively low risk.

Think ongoing process. Keep the recruitment and prospecting process active throughout the year, even when there are no current vacancies. Remember, time goes by fast between board elections, so don’t wait for a controversy to “grow” a candidate. While legitimate candidates may emerge from the public over a controversial issue or highly debated board decision, chances are these could be “single-issue” prospects whose motive for running may be to champion a cause or challenge the board’s authority in order to change its decision. The result is often a split board and frustrated new board members.

For more information and resources, check out the Get on Board microsite. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact MASB at [email protected] or 517.327.5900. 

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