What Makes a Good School Board Member?

Lena Eisenstein

School boards are a collective body of representatives for the local community, collaboratively working toward improving local public education organizations. However, individual board members are responsible for doing their part to ensure that the entire board accomplishes the goals set forth to support student achievement.

What makes a good school board member is certain characteristics that encourage board and district development. As the landscape of education continues to change, good school board members embrace opportunities that challenge and push these organizations toward growth and success.

Understand the role and responsibilities of a board member

School board members are elected to serve as representatives of their communities. It is imperative for good board members to be aware of the work and expectations that have been set for them.

School board member responsibilities can be burdensome, as they work to serve as advocates for their local district. However, the work completed by board members is vital to the success of the district and its students.

Knowing and understanding the duties required of them, board members are also better able to understand the functions of other individuals who support district success (superintendents, administrators, staff, etc.). This knowledge can allow school boards and administrators to perform their best work to collaboratively work toward improving district achievement.

Through school board member responsibilities tied to governance, policies, budgeting, and more, the board can cultivate a culture of support and success within the community. There are tools available that boards can utilize to efficiently, effectively, and successfully fulfill their school board member responsibilities.

Leveraging the right technology, board members can maintain vital documents and materials related to board responsibilities and effectiveness. Policies, procedures, board training materials, etc. can all be easily maintained and accessed through board management software.

Continued education and development

Even the most experienced school board members never stop learning. What makes a good school board member is the knowledge that being successful requires being a lifelong learner. Board members should take advantage of opportunities for training and development to enhance their skills and knowledge.

Continuous and regular school board member training keeps board members cognizant of issues in the ever-changing field of education, while developing skills to contribute to the progress and success of the school district.

Utilizing the right tools, like a school board management software, can make training materials easily accessible to school board members. School board members can load board education materials to the 'library' features through the software. This allows board members to review training documents at their convenience.

When using the right technology, board member trainings can be more simplified. School board management software equips school boards to promote good orientation practices and encourages the continuing education of board members.

Embrace opportunities for collaboration

The school board plays a significant role in the performance of the local district. This body of public servants cannot achieve success through rogue members with their own agenda, but through the collective work accomplished by these joint representatives of the community.

Relationships are vital to school boards tackling district goals toward student success. These relationships can include those between the board and administrators or staff, the board and the superintendent, and even among board members. Each of these connections effects the work toward accomplishing district goals.

However, there are some boards who may struggle with developing these pivotal relationships and this dysfunction may be felt (directly or indirectly) by administrators, staff, and students. Collaboration between the school board and these parties is vital toward district and student achievement.

Successful school districts with high student achievement had boards that focused on a establishing and maintaining a positive relationship between the board and superintendent. In districts where superintendents were micromanaged by boards, had poor communication and conflict between board members and the superintendent, and where there was confusion between their roles or responsibilities experienced lower district performance.

Board management software encourages transparency, communication, and effectiveness between board members and administrators through collaborative technology where pertinent information can be shared and accessed seamlessly. Successful boards and administrators recognize that their positive partnership results in greater achievement for their students and district.

Seize opportunities and resources for growth and development as a board

Modern governance can be challenging, but it is through this practice of empowering leaders to fuel good governance in the modern age that leaders are encouraged and transformed ' greatly impacting districts, schools, and students.

What makes a good school board member is embracing opportunities through technology that can lead to better governance and decision making. Modern governance presents opportunities for school boards to take advantage of new resources to more efficiently and effectively accomplish district goals. This practice of modern governance goes beyond the boardroom to engage and equip board members and the community that they serve.

The right technology can support modern governance by providing a streamlined platform for school board members to leverage. Technology can equip school board members to be more organized, efficient, and effective. Leveraging the right board management software, like Community by Diligent, school boards are better equipped to carry out the mission and vision of the district.

Meeting agendas, past meeting minutes, policy manuals, strategic plans, goal information, and orientation or training resources are all significant materials related to board functions; school board members should have the capability of gaining access to these documents from any device or location, securely. Leveraging Community school board members can easily upload, share, and access all of these vital materials.

Boards and administrators should have the capability of retrieving these documents from any device or location, securely. Utilizing Community, school boards and administrators can easily access these materials from any device with internet access, anytime and anywhere. This level of accessibility allows administrators and board members to share materials to make educated and timely decisions for the betterment of the district. These features support an effective board, leading to greater student achievement.

What makes a good school board member is an individual who is willing to take advantage of opportunities for growth and development (through board training, encouraging relationships, or utilizing new technology) that support accomplishing district goals toward student success. School board members recognize that it is through the work of the entire governing body that district goals can be achieved. Embracing characteristics of a good board member supports the collaborative work of the collective board. 

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Lena Eisenstein
Lena Eisenstein is a former Manager at Diligent. Her expertise in mission-driven organizations, including nonprofits, school boards and local governments, centers on how technology and modern governance best practices empower leaders at these organizations to serve their communities with efficiency and purpose.