Education & Government
Jennifer Rose Hale Image
Jennifer Rose Hale
Former Client Partner, Texas Association of School Boards

Equipping your school board for the future: A comprehensive guide

January 10, 2024
0 min read
equipping your school board for the future

What is future-readiness in education? Once, it was defined as “the need for speed,” or quality technology infrastructure for connected learning, in the U.S. Department of Education’s Future Ready Schools report.

That was a decade ago. And school leaders learned just a few short years later how urgent that need would be, when students took sometimes-unfamiliar school devices home to spotty or nonexistent internet connections, and school leaders needed to enhance connectivity quickly. As a result, between 2019 and 2021, 2.1 million more children had broadband access due to public-private partnerships around pandemic shutdowns.

The definition of “future-ready” continues to evolve. Future-ready education takes shape in the classroom, administrative offices and the school board meeting. With its role in oversight of governance, the board has the onus of responsibility to ensure its schools and students are future-ready. But what does that look like now, and how can school boards ensure they help their schools — and students — continue to meet the changing definitions of future-readiness?

Key elements of a future-ready school board

Effective school board leaders are those who can be flexible in their thinking. It’s not simply that schools are different from “when I was a kid,” but that aspects of education are changing fundamentally year over year — and therefore are likely to change even between one sibling and the next. It can be a daunting challenge, but one that can be broken down into a few key elements.

Insight into the future of education. As the needs of the workforce change, so too must the expectations for preparing students for their futures, including empowering tomorrow’s leaders. Board members are not soothsayers, but they must be alert to changing trends and see both the challenges and opportunities available to their community’s students and staff.

Ability to align strategic planning with future needs. The trends we see today are a good bellwether for what’s to come. School districtswho got on board with business-level disaster preparedness and connectivity, for example, were better able to respond to 2020 shutdowns, and those understanding the demographic shifts of their communities can better plan schools and services to meet those communities’ needs.

Willingness to prioritize digital literacy and technology integration. How many boards were prepared for AI even five years ago? Today, boards must weigh the benefits of AI against the risks as students and staff find new ways to use the tools. A recent News-Times article covers the different approaches to AI among classrooms.

Anticipating and implementing every technology innovation may be out of the scope and budget of most school boards, but having an understanding of the speed of change and processes helps school boards make wise infrastructure choices and establish realistic policies.

Continuing emphasis on equity and inclusiveness. School governance must be transparent and representative of the community. Parents and other stakeholders are taking an increased interest in board activity, and it falls on boards to ensure everyone has fair access to both give input to and understand board decisions.

Preparing for unforeseen challenges. Whether it’s preparing for crisis management or less dire changes, school leaders must be ready to respond to change on a number of fronts.

Tips for boards to strengthen their future-readiness

These factors require elastic thinking and open-mindedness, and boards can find the right strategies and tools to make them a regular part of board work.

  • Keep tools up to date. Board service benefits greatly from the use of the right technology solutions, which can help boards both work with data and mitigate risk. With so many board members working on a volunteer basis in hours around jobs, family time and other activities, investing in an efficient solution like a digital board management solution is a first step to making board work more efficient.
  • Evaluate policy processes to speed up reaction and encourage proactiveness. Adopting, evaluating and sunsetting policies is an enormous time commitment for school board members. But the process likely can be improved for any board. Undertake a thorough evaluation of the policy process to codify workflows and identify any bottlenecks or other obstacles. This is another area in which board management software can increase efficiency among all contributors by centralizing and streamlining your policy process.
  • Form smart technology partnerships. Even the most robust IT team has more work than it can handle, and learning, maintaining and evaluating new software can take a back seat to more urgent matters. Partners that provide education technology should have demonstrable and extensive experience with modern education needs and be on call if issues or questions arise, when they arise.
  • Employ data-informed decision making. The era of Big Data is here, and with it comes the responsibility of weeding through streams of information to elicit firm answers to how students — and by extension schools — are performing. By ensuring the board has updated reports and easy-to-understand dashboards of relevant school performance data, board members can work better together to make confident decisions about leadership, budgeting, zoning, policies and more.
  • Plan for transition. Regular board turnover can be an obstacle to longer-term efforts and problem-solving, and training is key to a board’s effectiveness. A usable, secure archive of the board’s history ensures that school progress can continue without a hiccup through elections and appointments. Similarly, making training materials — both onboarding and ongoing — available in a central location, e.g. in your board management software, helps ensure all board members are prepared to do the work quickly and professionally.
  • Focus on security. Like other governmental entities, school districts are increasingly targeted by cyber criminals due to the large volume of secure data and perceived vulnerabilities. When evaluating tools the board and schools use, look for solutions that employ top-level security and granular access permissions to keep district data safe.

Looking ahead for your district

Becoming a future-ready board able to tackle the key issues for your school district can be a daunting task. It requires forward thinking, smart use of data, effective cooperation with leadership and more. With the right strategies and the right technology support, however, it is achievable.

Diligent designs solutions to support boards working toward future-ready schools. Discover how Diligent Community can help your board increase efficiency, improve workflows and ensure your students have the guidance to thrive in tomorrow’s world.


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