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Effectively Recruiting Your Next School Board Member 

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Why Think About Recruiting for Your School Board Vacancy?

While many of the 4,000 Michiganders serving as school board members serve multiple terms, the turnover rate is considerable. There are nearly 700 new members elected every even year. That’s why it’s important for school boards to be forward-looking, long before the candidate petition process begins.

The Michigan Association of School Boards prepared this guide to help school districts develop an effective process for recruiting prospective school board candidates. This material is intended to support, not replace, the work of the local school board in the ongoing process of identifying, recruiting and mentoring future and new school board candidates.

How to Recruit From the Board Table

Know Your Board and What you Need: How to Identify Best-fits for Vacancies

Required Skills and Talents

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

Required Voices

Focus on representation. If you want to bring in new perspectives and voices, think about whether your board composition really reflects the community it represents. Everyone benefits from diverse perspectives. Would your board benefit from the perspectives of younger people? Older people? People of color, different language speakers, or specific ethnic backgrounds? How well are you representing your district’s geographic, economic and educational attainment makeup?

Required Passion for District

Recruit people who care deeply about the district’s mission. It’s not enough to just possess valuable skills and a representative voice—you’ll want to serve with individuals who are passionate about doing what’s best for the district, its students and its staff.

Where to Recruit

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
  • 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
  • Opposition leaders. Though not all of them want 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.

Messaging and Recruitment Tactics

  • Be positive. Promote board service by recognizing its altruistic benefits, i.e., the value of the board’s role, the importance of creating and leaving a legacy, and the community benefits of quality schools. Your board can do this at board meetings, at community functions, in district newsletters and websites, and many other venues.
  • Get qualified candidates to come to you. Let the community know about vacancies or create opportunities to learn about board service by:
    • Advertising your board vacancies and announce 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.

When to Start Recruiting

Great boards make recruitment an ongoing process. Even when there are no current vacancies, understand who you’re looking for to serve and be prepared to engage with them about future service. 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. The result is too-often a split board and frustrated new board members.

Talking With Potential Candidates

After identifying a potential candidate with the abilities or skills that would be suited for school board service, how do you ask someone to run?

Be honest and forthright about both the demands and rewards of the job. The best candidates will enter service with a clear understanding of what their role will be, what benefits they should expect from serving, and what challenges they may face. You are seeking a board member who wants to rise to the challenge of board service and face the work constructively. Try to balance your conversation with both the opportunities and obstacles of the work.

Here are some examples of how to provide balanced insights into common questions and concerns:

Q & A

Does it take a lot to learn about board work and board service?
Don’t you experience some community negativity about some of your decisions?
Can’t board members sometimes get heated with one another? Isn’t that hard to take?
Isn’t it a big commitment to serve on the school board?
How much authority would I really have as a single board member?
Shouldn’t I be a parent to serve on the board?
Doesn’t all of the power really rest with the superintendent and not the board?

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