Education & Government
Diana Baker Freeman Image
Diana Baker Freeman
Sr. Manager, Modern Governance Advocacy & Iniatives

Attending your first school board conference? Tips for making the most of your time

November 13, 2023
0 min read
tips for attending first school board conference

I recently hosted a session at a school board conference, and a woman who had attended my session asked me what she should do while at the conference. She was a new school board member and had already heard that board members don’t make purchasing decisions, so she wasn’t sure how to make the best use of her time. It was all a little overwhelming.

I explained to her that new school board members can gain several benefits from attending a school board association conference, which can help them become more effective in their role and contribute positively to the school district they serve.

Here are my practical tips for newly elected board members who want to get the most from the conferences they attend.

Use sessions for professional development

There is great value in any new member training that your school board association offers. While the local district typically will do a brief new member orientation, state associations often offer courses that take a deeper dive into the role of governance.

While conferences often feature workshops and seminars on a wide range of topics relevant to education and school governance, there are usually sessions aimed specifically at new members to help them better understand their new roles.

In particular, conferences may provide sessions on the legal and ethical responsibilities of school board members. For new members, understanding your obligations is essential for making informed decisions and avoiding legal issues. Nearly any educational session at these conferences can provide valuable insights into educational trends, policies and effective governance strategies, so it is definitely worth attending as many sessions as you can.

Attending a school board association conference can provide new school board members with knowledge, skills, connections and resources that will help them fulfill their responsibilities effectively and make a positive impact on the education system in their district.

Use the conference for networking opportunities

Conferences are a valuable chance to spend time with both local board members, as well as those around the state. While open meeting laws restrict business discussions outside of a called meeting, conferences offer board members the opportunity to connect on a personal level. Board members will often be faced with difficult discussions in the boardroom, but these challenges are more easily overcome when members have a solid relationship.

Conferences also provide an excellent platform for connecting with administrators and education professionals from different districts. Building a network can be instrumental in sharing best practices, seeking advice and collaborating on common issues.

Exposure to different perspectives and experiences can also broaden your understanding of educational issues and solutions. I once heard an older man leaving a conference ask one of his younger colleagues, “Who all did you meet that was new to you?” That question has stayed with me, and I always try to remember the value of it when I attend conferences.

Make the most of access to experts

Conferences typically bring in experts and keynote speakers who can provide useful insights and inspiration. These experts may cover topics such as education policy, leadership, community engagement, and more. If you have an issue in your district you want to learn more about, be sure to attend that session and bring the questions from your district. Most sessions include time for questions, but you could also get contact information from the speaker so you can follow up after.

Conferences also offer opportunities to collect valuable resources, such as publications, research findings and educational materials that can be beneficial in your work.

Speak to vendors

In addition to the speakers, recognize that the exhibit hall is a good place to get to know a topic. If your district has a particular need — facilities, superintendent search or agenda management software, for example — it is a good time to learn about the vendors that exist to serve that need.

From finding out which companies offer the product or expertise you need to, exploring cost ranges and seeing examples of their work, board members can gain valuable knowledge and work within their role in the exhibits of a conference.

At our Diligent booth, we frequently answer questions or show new features to existing customers, as well as share information with those who are still considering making a switch to cloud-based board management software. We also just love to meet and speak with educational leaders!

Make the most of your next conference

Attending a school board association conference can provide new school board members with knowledge, skills, connections and resources that will help them fulfill their responsibilities effectively and make a positive impact on the education system in their district.

It's an investment in both their professional development and the success of their school district. Planning your trip to include valuable sessions, directed discussions and useful networking helps you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars by bringing your new knowledge to board deliberations moving forward.

We at Diligent understand that board management software has a key role to play in helping new school board members in their role. We have designed Diligent Community to support school boards in reaching and maintaining effective governance. Let us know how we can support you and come say hi to us at your next school board conference.


Your Data Matters

At our core, transparency is key. We prioritize your privacy by providing clear information about your rights and facilitating their exercise. You're in control, with the option to manage your preferences and the extent of information shared with us and our partners.

© 2024 Diligent Corporation. All rights reserved.