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

Prompters for that crucial first season of leadership.

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Team habits to develop great candidates (go here for a look at the seasons)...

Pre candidate season:

  • Encourage key volunteers/leaders in your system and community – “Have you ever considered being a board member…?”
  • Invite "interested leaders" to three board meetings in a row, each with an early greeting time just prior to the official meeting
  • Invite “interested leaders” to a process similar to  a series of sessions, specifically designed to envision and equip potential members for the challenges facing the district and the teamWORK needed for great governing
  • News release/coverage of the election cycle, qualities of excellent boards…
  • Begin using CASB assets for the cycle (letter to editor, news release concepts, online resources, critical issues sheet, special session at fall regionals…)

Candidate season: 

  • Encourage/host a local candidates night, coffee, breakfast…
  • Join together with area boards to host a regional candidates night featuring a wisdom panel of veterans, presentations by CASB staffers and open discussion
  • Provide candidates with documents from your work to be a highly-effective governance team
  • Specifically invite candidates to all governance meetings or major opportunities with constituents
  • Have “focus sessions,” hosted by a board member and a key administrator, to help candidates develop depth with the team’s top priorities (increasing student achievement, financial stability, staff support and development, community engagement, governance effectiveness…)
  • Add candidates to your “announcement of meetings”
  • Deliver a candidate’s version of each board packet
  • Veteran-candidate “buddy” process of coffees, phone calls or pre/post meeting chats
  • Invest in each candidate to attend the CASB regional and fall conference (cover registration, ride together, debrief, discuss at next regular meeting…)
  • Send candidates copies of CASB communications

 

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Questions for a conversation with a veteran...

Candidate season:  

  • If you had a "do over" in your candidate season(s) what would be different? 

  • If you could wave a magic wand over all aspects of board campaigning, what would happen? 

  • What's crucial for candidates to understand about the condition of Colorado financing and expectations? 

  • What candidate values prove to be essential in mature board leadership? 

  • What are your best hopes for candidates, this year? 

  • What are your worst fears for this election season? 

  • Your "one thing," your most important mentoring insight for candidates? 

New-member season:  

  • Encouragements for the first month's "baby steps": 

  • Keys to effective work as a new member: 

  • Habits to acquire in the first year: 

  • What are your best hopes for new members in the first year? 

  • What are your worst fears for new members in that first year? 

Overall: 

  • How does your governing team sharpen and improve its work? 

  • What are the wildly important goals of your governing team? 

  • What core values are embedded in all the work of your board? 

  • How does your board focus and get things done effectively? 

  • What's the hardest thing about being a board member? 

  • When a passionate citizen/parent/leader comes to you and wants you to do something for them, what do you do? 

  • How have you become the best you can be as a member of your governing team? 

  • When you're long retired from the frontline of board leadership, what will you remember most about the effort? 

 

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“Great candidate” qualities abound in a classic article from the American School Board Journal:

  • Motivated to improve quality for all children 

  • Strong advocate for quality education 
  • Prior school community service 
  • Know the proper role for the board 
  • Team player 
  • Sense of humor 
  • Representative of the diversity of the community 
  • Excellent interpersonal skills 
  • Positive 
  • Not motivated by a single issue 
  • Respects others 
  • Understands that the authority of the board is through board work, not individual 
  • Can support board decisions even when personal perspectives are different (2004)

 

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CASB member wisdom from an an eCafe conversation:
  • "Encouraging interest for board candidacy is tricky. Sometimes it's hard enough to get people to engage at public meetings, let alone a four year commitment. Then, there is always the difficulty in getting new board members that are not agenda driven. Sometimes, you'll get candidates who specifically want one thing to happen and are not open to all of the other aspects of district management. What I would like to see is more young adults running for board positions. These are people who do not yet have kids in the system and thus operate under an interesting viewpoint without individual bias.”
  • “Tricky, yes, but doable.
 Especially with continuous modeling of great governing, encouragement of accountability leaders, connections with community leaders, engaging candidate "nights"
  • “One first step board members can take is to let people know, in meetings and in the community, that there will be an election in November. Make yourself available to talk about board work and the commitment involved. I'm having coffee tomorrow with a prospective board candidate who reached out to me to learn more about board work. Encourage prospective candidates to attend board meetings and other district events. Write an Op-Ed or LTE that promotes the district, the work of the board and the importance of serving. 

  • “Your hope/desire for more young adults running for board positions prompts thoughts about other "minority" or under represented folks. There's something about developing leadership for an entire community percolating, here” 

 

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Veteran wisdom to a newly elected board member ("The Leslie List'):...

  • Seek out a mentor; understand that life is an evolution of learning…we continue to learn our whole life!
  • Your impact must be systemic or it won’t last.
  • Continue to educate yourself through training.  So much changes everyday that the knowledge is invaluable.
  • Learn board policy.  If changes are needed to follow through for changes for student education
  • I hope we can help to flatten the learning curve.
  • Communicate effectively with fellow board members and district administration.
  • When in doubt, ask questions!
  • For realtors it’s location-location-location, for board members and superintendents it’s listen-listen-listen.
  • Focus/prioritize your commitment to your school board.  Make this transition time your #1 priority.  Tell your family, friends, co-workers, etc. that you need to focus on school board and educating yourself and bringing yourself current on what’s hot in your district, understanding policy, getting to know who’s who, who does what and why.
  • Hopefully you will not encounter people who try to run their agenda through you.  Do not give up, it will be hard.
  • Stay in touch with your community.  Make sure they know the lines of communication are always open.
  • Keep your optimism and focus on kids.
  • My hope for you is to learn fast and aid in helping maintain and increase the quality and effectiveness of our education system.
  • Get involved as possible in anything at local, state level that affords opportunity to learn.

 

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Interview questions... 

Here's a smorgasbord of questions, all geared to help focus candidates, applicants, and new members on the serious business of governing well. Most are tweakable for team-building conversations, as well. 

  • Why are you interested in becoming part of this governance team? 
  • What relationships/connections do you have with the school district? 
  • What has your experience been like as an area volunteer?
  • What experience, assets or skills do you have which would benefit the governing team? 
  • What personal strengths would you bring the governing team?
  • How would others describe your personal leadership style? 
  • What experience do you have with team leadership of any kind?
  • How many board meetings have you attended in the last year and what were your observations?
  • What type of commitment will you bring to this governing team?
  • Which board policies are strong? 
  • Which need some review and work?
  • What are the most important responsibilities of the board? 
  • How does a governance team best maximize its time?
  • What does it take for a governance team to be highly effective? 
  • What team behaviors are crucial for highly effective work?
  • What commitments for effectivenes would you bring to the governing team? 
  • What insights do you have about real or perceived conflicts of interest which are a normal part of the governance challenge in small communities?
  • What is your vision for the future of the district’s learning efforts?
  • What are the primary issues facing the future of the district?
  • What top priorities should consume most of the board’s time this year?
  • In your first year on the team, whatwould you do to learn about great governing for the sake of the kids? 
  • What are your “best hopes” for this governing team?

The Connecticut Association of School Boards has a great list here.  Just a few of the many:

  1. What motivates you to want to become a board member?
  2. How would you handle the requests, if approached, by an individual? Special interest groups?
  3. What are the basic requirements for successful school boardsmanship?
  4. What is your vision for education in this community?
  5. What do you see as the primary work of the board?
  6. What do you think is expected of you as a board member?
  7. Why are school boards necessary?