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The Art of School Boarding

Jim Burgett

By Jim Burgett, General Session Speaker, 2015 MASB Annual Leadership Conference

DashBoard, Sept. 2, 2015

My name is Jim Burgett. I have a passion about school boards, about their importance and about their effectiveness. I have been involved with education from birth—learning from my parents, family and friends and then from the age of five until the present I have been involved with school systems, all lead by a group of people known as “The Board.”

The general public doesn’t fully comprehend the impact that school boards have on their lives, their future and the direction of society in general. I do. I have seen great boards make bold and impressive decisions that opened doorways and changed the future. I have also witnessed ineffective boards do the opposite. Thus, my passion is to help assure that opportunities for learning are being planned and implemented by boards that exist for the right reasons.

I have been speaking to individual boards and associations of school boards for many years. I finally put my message in a concise book titled, “The Art of School Boarding.” It is a book crafted from the experience of successful board members and educators. It is frank and direct, and I am happy to report that boards across the United States have embraced the message.

School board members quickly realize that there is no set of instructions that come with the job. No checklist of duties or behaviors. No training that prepares them for difficult decisions, for the massive amount of information they must digest, or how to process the public’s fickle attitude toward taxes, government, salaries, curriculum, safety, facilities and bus routes. And that is only the tip of the iceberg of issues.

School boarding is not a science. It is an art. It does, however, require a few fundamental skills. Teamwork is first and foremost. Also, being open-minded, able to discuss, process, compromise, accept and deliver. The best school board members understand the importance of vision. They also realize the immense value of understanding and processing school finance. And, they realize that hiring, supporting and respecting a good school leader, usually the superintendent, is paramount to success.

Understanding who does what, the chain of command and how to handle that inevitable tough question from the public are skills that need to be learned and “artfully” delivered. My message provides fundamental steps to follow, as well as a basis for discussion. My goal is to ease the learning process for new board members and solidify what works and what hinders success for the veterans.

Can you learn the “art” in 160 pages, by listening to a keynote or even by attending a workshop? Probably not—but you will gain important information about what works, why it works and what to avoid.

The passion is that every child, every young adult and every parent will experience thoughtful, progressive and honest leadership at the helm of their school—leadership that indeed will make a positive difference.


See a message from Jim below and hear him present at the 2015 MASB Annual Leadership Conference on Saturday, Oct. 24. More information and registration are available here.


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