CASB Great Governing

A service of the Colorado Association of School Boards, Great Governing is dedicated to citizen leaders learning, growing and achieving for "the sake of the kids." For a conversation, contact Randy Black at CASB headquarters, 1200 Grant Street, Denver, Colorado 80203.

800-530-8430, 303-832-1000

Designing new trust & understanding

Veteran board members Ann Guettler (r) and Mickie Hosack describe their design ideas for new, ongoing constituent engagement [Superintendent Susan Birdsey holds the creativity] 

Veteran board members Ann Guettler (r) and Mickie Hosack describe their design ideas for new, ongoing constituent engagement [Superintendent Susan Birdsey holds the creativity] 

Ideas were really percolating during a rich time with the Garfield 2 "crew," Monday night in Rifle.  At the core:  Designing new constituent engagement efforts and going next level with performance appraisals for both board and "one employee."  Along the way:  Helped a candidate catch the serious business of great governing.

The policy-centered, strategically aligned, strengths-driven leaders are part of a continuous improvement culture that features pursuit of a shared vision, wildly important goals, aligned work throughout the system, and everybody-a-learner applications.

The night's milestones: 

  • probing challenges and opportunities
  • identifying an "intersection" of need (wider and deeper constituent trust and understanding of the challenges) and strength (Discover Re-2, an ongoing group of 20 constituents learning about the district)
  • compiling "why & what" about the excellence of Discover Re-2
  • designing ideas for possible next steps
  • coalescing around "Celebrate Re-2"

For more insights:  Discover Re-2 summary and content schedule, here; board of education's aligned agendas, here; district homepage, here.




DoING the wildly important...

Ah, the intersection of democracy and education!

Such a mix of passionate voices, gaps of mis/understanding, power applications, limited perspectives, grand hopes, great intentions, and an ongoing encounter with the push-pull-shaky-tenuous nature of change.

Distractions, diffusions, drifts, and derailments over the years:  Volleyball uniforms.  Length of the grass on the football fields.  Some aspect of education that has not received full investment due to Colorado's long slide with state funding.  A coooooooach who loves lone rangering.   A conspiracy-driven board member.  A necessary reduction of staff or programs because you can't print money.  Blaming the superintendent for anything that makes someone unhappy.  A fellow board member who breaks confidentiality with executive sessions.  Drifting away from policy leadership.  Focusing on daily/weekly management responsibilities.  No/low ownership of the governing function.  Making performance improvement about every other leadership role but governing.

So what's wildly important for the sake of the kids?  Really.  Clearly.  PowerFULLy.  Some thoughts and hopes:

  • Owning and living a strategic framework for the board's work:  Motivating vision of a high performance future, purposeFULL mission, wildly important goals, operating norms, and embedded core values.  [catch the strategic framework in this concept agenda, here; consider standards and habits, here]
  • Focusing and aligning time/content on the wildly important such as increasing student achievement; enhancing professional development, classroom to boardroom; aligning the local system to the new ways of "doing" education; financing district investments during a decade of sliding state funding; constituent engagement and trustbuilding... [list compiled from insights gathered at each CASB regional, last fall]
  • Appraising the work frequently/constantly [while far more about an aligned process, here are concept tools for board and superintendent appraising moments] 
  • Advancing/improving as a norm: Being a learning community as a local team; "partnering for learning" with neighboring boards; sending team/members to CASB learning events; having your team representative participate in the delegate; ensuring your LegNet member fully contributes; engaging board effectiveness inside board meetings; holding at least one effectiveness workshop annually...

Unity maximizing diversity...


Not easy to develop or sustain, unified work is a hallmark of every great governing team.  Maximizing unique diversity requires "sweat equity" with continuous improvement of both team and individual member. 

Catch some wisdom in this soon-to-be-gone digital version of the American School Board Journal (June, page 14, Self-Fulfilling Prophecy)  


  • "Unity among board member and administrators is important... But when you search for how to achieve this harmony, look to yourself first."
  • "[B]oard unity is significant because of the positive impact it can have on student learning." 
  • "What is the key to unity on the school board?  What is the magical component that promotes unity?  The answer is not what, but rather who.  The who is you." 
  • An essential series of questions to answer and review: What are the qualities you admire about your community?  Your schools? Your teachers? Your students? Your superintendent?  "And now, admittedly the most difficult, but really the most important: What are the qualities you admire about your fellow board members–each and every one?  After completing this segment of the exercise, repeat the process, but replace the words 'admire about' with the words 'expect from.'"
  • The BIG question: "Based on the qualities I admire and my expectations arising from them, what behaviors will I engage in to reinforce what I admire and expect?"
  • "Unity on the school board beings with you and ends with better outcomes for students.  After all, what did you expect?" 

Designing the BigConvening of board learning


Designing and planning for the BigConvening went "all March Madness" at last week's gathering of board members, superintendents and other education leaders.

Using great basketball teams as a catalyst, CASB "Coaches of Excellence" used soloing, discussing and prioritizing elements as they addressed three continuous improvement areas:

  • Defensive coordinator - protecting what's wildly important (values, strengths, effective traditions...)
  • Scout coach - identifying and assessing challenges, developing matched-up content
  • Offensive coordinator - advancing, moving, reinventing, refreshing, winning

Among the prioirities:

  • Core strengths and values to advance – Networked learning, empowering leaders, content, tools, regional topics, student strand, discovering shared problems and ideas, embracing big-picture citizenship, student strand, inspiring success and relevance
  • Core challenges and content to address – Increasing student achievement, systemic change, assessments/accountability, learnings from turnaround/improvement work, board effectiveness, community engagement, trustbuilding, networking/collaborating, finance, educator evaluations, rural issues, safety, marijuana
  • Core improvements and reinventions… facilitated Saturday working lunch, developmental strands, "speed talks" (quick/mini presentations with rotations), edgy/stretching/controversial content, post-convention options/planning, more impact/blending from student-strand students