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What Should the Board Know

Posted by Scott Barron on Oct 1, 2016 11:06:26 AM
Scott Barron

ACIS_Colorado_Sept_16_Workshop.jpegThis week the School Growth team had the privilege of leading workshops at the ASBO annual conference in Phoenix, the GISA Enrollment conference in Atlanta, and the ACIS enrollment session in Denver. It's enlightening to see the different school designs and strategies being employed across this wide spectrum and to cross-pollinate some best practices along the way. 

During the Building Faculty Engagement workshop in Colorado on Thursday, one of the participating enrollment directors shared with me about the intentional efforts being made at her school to build greater relationships and productive collaboration between the administration and board.

In that effort, the head of the school asked the leadership team:

"What should the board know?"

This question was posed as a challenge for the administrators to deeply consider what knowledge the board members should have about the school in order to be most effective in the fulfillment of their duties and roles. From her body language it was apparent that this exercise energized the team--they liked being asked to provide insight for the board and to help improve that vital connection.

What Every Board Member Should KnowUltimate_Board_Goal.jpg

Since we've had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of school boards, this question prompted me to reveal more about what we've learned about the best, the worst, and everything in between when it comes to board expertise.

Below is a top ten list of the key areas of knowledge every board member must master in order to maximize effectiveness.

  1. Mission & Institutional History
  2. Best Practices and Boundaries of Governance (vs Management)
  3. Performance Expectations for the School(s), the Board, and the Chief Administrator
  4. Financial Condition, History, Performance, and Forecast
  5. Target Markets & Value Propositions 
  6. School Design Framework and How to Assess Performance/Issues
  7. Profile of each Board Member and the Chief Administrator
  8. Past and Present Risks and Liabilities
  9. Educational Trends and Opportunties
  10. Best Practices of High Performing Organizations

So much can be shared about each of these ten areas, but we'll save that for the book. In the meantime, send me an email if you would like to discuss any or all in more detail.

With the pressure on schools to improve combined with the elevated dynamics of the education market place, the capacity of the school board to function as a learning organization has never been more important. By setting the tone with a safe and supportive environment, promoting learning practices and resources, and establishing and reinforcing key learning results, the school board is able to model the utmost in performance and results.

Listen with Humility

The best boards also invest the time and energy to listen carefully to the administrative team. They seek to understand the complexities of school leadership, to cultivate broad and deep trust, and to respond with purposeful and courageous decisions. Humility is common among the most remarkable school boards, with the members individually and collectively committed to being the best board with whom to work.

In thinking through this question, another one has to also be considered: What Shouldn't the Board Know? We'll look at that in the next post.

Topics: Board Culture

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