Thursday, June 12, 2008

Oregon School Board Association

From the "Is Your School Board Dysfunctional?" page:

Dysfunctional board behaviors have common denominators. These checkpoints can help you avoid them.

"Lack of leadership" is a frequently discussed topic in many school districts. While the conversation can center on administrators and teachers, the topic seems to surface most frequently when people talk about school boards.

The first indicator of a problem is thinking that one's election to the school board qualifies one to lead. The second symptom is believing that one's election to the school board qualifies one to lead.

On this planet leadership is not the result of electoral success. To underline the point, here are some examples of elected school board members who are dysfunctional leaders:


A newly elected school board member files a freedom of information request two weeks after his election (and before attending his first board meeting!) seeking the balance in the school district's Christmas Club account. Because his family squirrels away money in such an account, he assumes that the school district does the same thing.


A newly elected school board member wants to approve every news release issued by the school district, and wants final editing rights on the school district newsletter.


A newly elected school board majority votes to assign members of the board to district classrooms for the purpose of evaluating teachers.


A waiter elected to the school board begins his tenure by telling cooks what to serve in the school lunch program.


A newly elected school board member spills all the details of an executive session on negotiations to the union.


A school board member requests a master key so that he can randomly visit class rooms and school offices nights and weekends.

All of these elected officials probably believe that they're doing the right thing. But the reality is that none of them is moving the system forward, let alone contributing to the well being of students. They are -- as business people might say -- "in over their heads."

School boards will have to overcome dysfunctions like this if their school districts are to improve student achievement and capitalize on the opportunities presented by the future.

Fortunately, dysfunctional behaviors like those above have some common denominators. That makes them easier to diagnose and remedy.

For example, there is a relationship between misunderstanding one's role and the tendency to find yourself in over your head. Other commonalities include the absence of school board orientation programs, a lack of district direction, and a planning process that never progresses to implementation.

There's a lot of interesting stuff on the OSBA website. Some of it I sort of want to post. Let's see if I get around to it this weekend.


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