Education & Government
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The Diligent team
GRC trends and insights

What does board diversity mean for school boards?

September 3, 2019
0 min read
A school board member speaking on diversity

School board members serve as the representatives of their local district and advocates for their community. These boards have important decision-making and governance responsibilities that directly impact the experiences and success of students within the district.

Board diversity can affect the work performed by the school board. When considering what board diversity means, it is vital to understand the varying aspects of diversity and the role it plays for the school board and the work completed for your local district.

What is board diversity?

Ethnicity, race, gender, ideologies, socioeconomic status, and individual experiences are all factors that are key in the answer to, 'What is board diversity?'

Skill, knowledge, raw talent, expertise, and even the personality of individual board members can contribute to the diversity of the school board as a whole.

One's culture and life experiences may provide an individual school board member with a stronger bond or relationship to the community that they represent. This can aid the school board when having difficult conversations or when focusing on addressing or responding to specific issues or concerns in their governance actions.

Now that we have addressed the basic principles of what is board diversity, how can school boards on small and larger scales work to increase board diversity?

In the state of Washington, the Washington State School Directors' Association offers two-hour workshops throughout the state that encourages citizens to learn about what it means to serve on a school board. The hope is that by educating citizens about serving on a school board, the program could encourage and support individuals of diverse backgrounds to run for the opportunity to serve on their school boards.

What is board diversity and how does it relate to student success?

As schools grow in diversity, it becomes even more imperative that school boards reflect that diversity. School boards with members of diverse of backgrounds, experiences, gender, and ethnicities can benefit from a variety of perspectives; having access to these various viewpoints is valuable when considering the important decisions that the school board may make regarding educational and policy issues.

When reflecting on board diversity, it can be difficult to understand what is board diversity and how it can relate to the success of students within the district.

A study from Florida State University found that district school boards that were more ethnically diverse (comprised of black, white, and Hispanic board members) reduced the probability of disciplinary suspensions for all students. The study also found that board diversity significantly reduced the disparity among minority and white students.

When students see leaders and champions of their communities that look like them or have had similar experiences, it can be encouraging and supportive to that student. The importance of students having role models who truly serve as representatives of their best interests and champions of their communities cannot be diminished.

What is board diversity and how does it relate to the community?

The research team from Florida State University, led by Cresean Hughes who is a graduate of the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, also analyzed whether the racial composition of a school board is a truly accurate representation of the greater school district or community that the board serves to represent.

School board diversity might look like examining the diversity of the local community and working to ensure that there is proper representation of minority groups or cultures within the community available on the board.

Understanding what is board diversity and how it relates to the community may require asking difficult, but important, questions about policies and practices.

'How are specific populations or groups in our school district affected by this new policy or practice being implemented?'

'Are there certain populations within the community that are unfairly impacted by the discipline code utilized by the school?'

When engaging with the community, school boards can utilize secure board management software to share board information related to diversity through various platforms (e-mail or social media). Whether it be progress on a diversity-related goal or information about an upcoming diversity event, the public can stay engaged in this important conversation with the school board.

What is board diversity and how does it relate to board governance?

Varying perspectives is vital to effective board governance. Having several views of the various possible outcomes of any action by the board can lead to a decision-making process may take more information into account regarding the different risks and consequences of possible actions.

School board members can feel like they are in a fishbowl, always open to public scrutiny and critique. A diverse school board allows for the collective board to better expect and think through any concerns and perspectives of key constituencies within the community.

School districts are facing greater, more complex and dynamic issues; diversity in the school board is vital as boards learn to navigate these new issues and challenges. Understanding what is board diversity as it relates to board governance means knowing that board diversity can provide a plethora of experiences and ideologies that can impact board decision-making.

A school board should have members upon which they can draw from a range of experiences that will assist the board in examining new opportunities, calculating risks, and predicting various challenges. Having multiple views from different board members on the potential results or consequences of an action can result in a more thorough, thoughtful, and intentional decision-making process.

School board members should be able to respectfully and successfully have dialogues of different views or perspectives that are carefully listened to and considered. This can assist the board in continuously challenging itself to keep up with the ever-changing dynamics that the district may face.

When working to overcome these new challenges, BoardDocs' software allows board members to take notes, create goals, share policies, and distribute documents or materials that relate to the important work of the board. BoardDocs can assist the board in accomplishing tasks in an effective and efficient manner.

By including differing perspectives and working to improve board diversity, the school board can expand the student's, administration's, and public's understanding of social justice and inclusion and how it is relating in importance to board diversity.

Setting an example and foundation for students and the community regarding diversity, school boards are vital as representatives, servants, and advocates for their local public school systems.

Understanding what is board diversity and how it may relate to your school board is imperative to the work of the district. School boards are at their best when there is diversity of perspective, ideology, and experiences.

By leveraging a cloud-based board software, like BoardDocs, school boards can more effectively tap into the various perspectives that create their diverse body to successfully accomplish work for public schools.


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