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ALC Keynote Speaker: Board Members Leading the Charge

Steve Dembo

By Steve Dembo, CEO, Teach42 and School Board President, Skokie/Morton Grove District 69 (Illinois)

DashBoard, Sept. 27, 2017

Why is the most important role of the school board the one that so often gets lost within the routine of monthly meetings? The obvious roles of school board members, such as employing the superintendent and overseeing the fiscal health of the district, are highly visible and tend to get a lot of focus. And yet we know the most important  role of school boards, establishing a shared vision for the district, rarely makes an appearance on the agenda.

As a society, our priorities evolve and change. About five years ago, STEM became a major priority for schools. Recently, the push for STEM has shifted slightly to key in on innovation and entrepreneurship in particular. The mainstream adoption of the maker movement, combined with fabrication technologies (such as 3-D printing) and low-cost computing devices have created a new age of invention. It’s not enough to just teach students how to code or do woodworking, we want our students working on real world problems and designing concrete solutions. Innovation isn’t a technology initiative, it’s a mindset—one that if not pervasive throughout an organization will become little more than a one-off activity that doesn’t enact any real change.

With that in mind, if school boards want to foster innovation in their districts, it isn’t enough to simply direct the superintendent to do so and then pat themselves on the back. They need to lead by example. Taking the time to evaluate how other districts are rethinking education and making the discussion of future-forward principles a priority during open session. It’s not only important for the board, in terms of establishing vision and policy for the district, but also to encourage such discussions amongst parents, teachers, administrators and community members. When the school board visibly makes innovation a priority, it can have a ripple effect on the entire community at large.  

At MASB’s Annual Leadership Conference, I’ll be sharing more about these practices. We’ll examine how some districts have fostered innovation at the classroom level, school level and throughout the entire district. I look forward to exploring how we as board members can lead the charge in bringing our schools into the future!


Dembo is presenting on Innovation Nation: Open the Curiosity Door on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at the MASB Annual Leadership Conference. Learn more about all sessions being offered and register to join us today!

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