School Boards 101

Posted by Matt Berringer on May 23, 2014

Social MediaBy Dr. Ramiro Zuniga

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with many school board members of several public school districts. During this time, I have presented on various topics, such as the rewriting of policies, media highlights, and technology initiatives. For the most part, all has gone well.

As most of us know, the main purpose of a local school board is to oversee the management of the school district. In doing so, the board ensures the superintendent implements and monitors processes and policies that work toward achieving district-defined goals.

I think it is fair to say that each individual board member has specific areas within the educational process that they wish to impact and to which they may be more sensitive. I think it is also fair to say that some board members are more vocal than others.

Many of my colleagues have asked me about the politics of working with a school board. To be truthful, I have never worried about that. To me, the phrase, “dealing with a board,” has a negative connotation. My view is that I work with a board, not deal with them. We are all part of the same team.

Listed below are 10 strategies I use in presenting an agenda item to a board:

  1. Preparation is key. Never enter a board room unprepared.
  2. Attend school board meetings regularly. This will give you insight on board member preferences and hot topics.
  3. When presenting, be clear, be brief, and stay on point.
  4. Dress up for the occasion. You will be much better received.
  5. Ensure the board has received all reports or other documentation related to your agenda item well in advance of the meeting.
  6. Anticipate questions that may be asked of you or about the agenda item you are presenting.
  7. Don’t be offended by board members’ questions. They need information in order to make informed decisions.
  8. Arm yourself with as much supporting documentation and information as possible.
  9. If you are not able to answer a question, make a note and advise the board that you will be forwarding them a response through the superintendent’s office.
  10. Be sure to follow through with providing additional information to the board, if needed.

As I mentioned earlier, we are all on the same team. We are all here to do the best for our students and staff. I believe that the great majority of board members have their hearts in the right place. Having said that, I realize issues arise. I too read the headlines from across the country.

It is best to always keep a positive and productive perspective. We are all human and therefore subject to making mistakes. Know that each mistake or misstep is an opportunity to learn and grow. And, of course, if you don’t succeed the first time, you have at least a month to regroup before the next board meeting.

Topics: school board, K-12