What can a Veteran Board Member do to Help New Board Members?

Dawn Kaiser

By Dawn M. Kaiser, Ph.D., MASB Mentor

DashBoard, Jan. 18, 2017

Thinking back to when I was a new school board member, I remember reading through my first board packet. Not only did I wonder what it all meant, I began to question my ability to be an effective board member. As I floundered my way through those first few meetings, there were a few things that I found to be very helpful for my transition and in bringing me up to speed. I would like to share those items that I believe are important for all veteran board members to remember as we help transition new board members to their position.

When a school board experiences transition, the process of inducting a new member is critical and should be leveraged as a board development practice. The process of induction is complex and should be seen as an ongoing learning experience for the entire team versus an isolated training episode that focuses only on the new board member.

First, suggest that the new members take the time to read the past year’s minutes, and let them know that you are available to answer any questions. This will help the new board member be more informed and clarify any items where the board may still be in the process of working out a resolution. This may also offer the veteran board members a summary of the past year.

Second, share the board’s goals and objectives. Be sure the new board member understands that it is more than student achievement. If new board members do not know what the board is trying to achieve, it is difficult for them to offer suggestions to help reach the outcomes.

Third, be sure to discuss the superintendent/board relationship, and how it is not only a multifaceted essential association, but how the dynamics of the board relationship, even among members, can be complex due to differing ideas and personalities. Some new board members may not be comfortable with speaking up for fear of creating conflict. Reassure your new board members that speaking up for or against goals, agenda items, etc., is an acceptable practice.

Last, but not least, the role of a board member requires specific technical knowledge in addition to process knowledge. Be sure to discuss the importance of learning the nuances of being a board member. Share the significance of taking classes and attending conferences designed specifically for school board members, and how they will help clarify the roles in order for them to become more effective.

Dawn Keiser has served on the Iosco RESA Board of Education for 11 years and has held the position of Vice President. Dawn has a Ph.D. in Organization and Management Leadership and has been a dean at a community college, college professor and is now a program director at American Intercontinental University. She is a MASB Mentor and can be contacted with questions on:

  • Advocacy
  • CBA Courses & Certification
  • Keeping Students First
  • Problem Solving
  • Role of the ISD

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