Vision: The Key to Developing the School District Your Community Needs

Donna Oser

By Donna Oser, MASB Director of Leadership Development and Executive Search Services

DashBoard, Sept. 22, 2015

Does your board establish a clear vision with high expectations for quality teaching and learning that supports strong student outcomes?

Does your board establish clear and specific goals to move your district forward?1

In the busyness that accompanies school board governance, it can be all too easy to think of establishing a vision as a low priority. Think again.

Essential Work

The school board’s essential work—first and foremost—is about establishing a mental picture of what the schools and district need to look like. School governance expert Doug Eadie reinforces this point, “Adopting a vision stands at the pinnacle of organizational decisionmaking, coming as close as possible to ‘pure’ governing work.”2 The clearer the picture a school board can create of the desired state, the easier it will be for school district staff and the community to help it get there. How a school board establishes the vision can be just as critical as what the vision is.

Shared Vision

It’s important to engage stakeholders (anyone who is affected by the district) in the process of developing the vision. There are many reasons for this. First, the vision itself should reflect the values of the community and keep the focus on what really matters—the students. Next, for the district to change, the vision that people hold of it and what it should accomplish must also change.3 Finally, engaging the entire community in creating the vision generates support for obtaining the resources necessary to make it a reality.1

Pursuing the Vision

Creating and adopting a shared vision is just the beginning. When the school board’s role in increasing student achievement is closely examined, researchers have found (again and again) that more successful districts have board members who [not only] have a vision for the future, but pursue that vision aggressively.4 Pursuing the vision includes ensuring a plan with specific, measurable goals is in place to achieve the vision; monitoring implementation of the plan and progress toward goals; making decisions that support the vision; and keeping the vision alive through its actions and communications.

In the Key Work of School Boards Guidebook, the National School Boards Association sums up the importance of establishing vision briefly but powerfully, “Defining your vision is taking charge of your destiny.”1 If you’d like to find out more about school board visioning or strategic planning, contact Board Development Manager Debbie Stair at 517.327.5904 or

This article first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of LeaderBoard magazine. View the full issue here.

1 Vision (2015), Key Work of School Boards Guidebook, NSBA.
2 Five Habits of High Impact School Boards (2005). Eadie, D.
3 The Stages of Systemic Change (1993). Educational Leadership. ASCD.
4 The Future of School Boards (2010). American School Board Journal. Stover, D.

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