Recently, I was given the opportunity to participate in a Thoughtstream survey being conducted by our provinces School Boards Association. They have created a task force to look at ways to more effectively carry out their role in our provinces education system and below I have included the thoughts I shared with them. School boards, and the democracy they represent, play an important part in our system and I would be interested in hearing your thoughts as well.
How can School Boards improve stakeholder relationships?
School boards need to be present (in whatever way is acceptable) with as many stakeholders as possible. If there is an opportunity for voice, take it. If it is simply an opportunity to listen, do that. A good elected school board will do its best work, not by bringing personal agendas to the table, but rather by being fully informed about the issues that are present among all stakeholders. Then, use the information to help in making the school division the best it can be.
How can School Boards Improve stakeholder engagement?
1. Stakeholder forums at central office, local schools and a variety of community facilities.
2. Don’t wait for them to come to you; go to them. Hold forums, meetings, etc. on their turf. Reservations, rural community halls, cultural gatherings, etc.
3. Social media needs to be leveraged in ways that it has never been used before.
How can we raise trustee profiles?
Every school trustee should be active on Twitter and other forms of social media. There is a new generation of constituents who can be (and prefer to be) engaged through social media. Trustees who are not involved in social media are missing out on an important conversation.
What should the School Board / Superintendent relationship look like?
The key is in the appointment, probation, and mentorship of Superintendents. With this changing paradigm in education it is crucial that the right kind of individuals are leading reform/transformation. Superintendents should not only be good managers, but also have a relational leadership style, be connected (worldwide), be forward thinking, and be the lead learner in the school division. If the school board gets the selection process right they will be able to spend their energies supporting the superintendent instead of challenging him/her. One bad hire creates years of entertainment.
What should the School Board role be in supporting transformation?
In order to make the learning experience more relevant and engaging there will be a need to reach out (like never before) to the wider community. The elected school board should be making connections and building trusting relationships with the wider community and then supporting the administrative staff in exploring ways to bring local business, research centres, local organizations, institutions of higher learning, etc. into the educational experiences of all students.
In order to create a more informed board (with a formal voice from important stakeholders), there should be consideration given to appointing certain representatives. Local context should be taken into consideration. Possible representatives might include a FNMI representative, an ELL representative, a representative from the local business association, and perhaps even a representative from a different part of the world (global perspective). Skype and other tools could be used to make meeting attendance possible.
In what ways should the Alberta School Boards Association support local School Boards?
The ASBA needs to be at the forefront of transformation by continuously in-servicing school boards on the vision of Inspiring Education. If school boards are going to play an important role in the transformation of Alberta’s education system, they need to understand all the reasons why it is important for transformation to occur. In many cases, the average citizen (and many of our trustees are average citizens) is not well-informed about forward thinking ideas in education. Many see education being the same experience they had years ago. Lot’s of PD is necessary.
Should the Alberta School Boards Association be considering change?
All individuals and organizations need to be continuously considering ways they can improve. We are in a time of exponential change and must be continually adjusting how we approach our work. Feedback and reflection are key components of this.
Do you have any other thoughts?
Thank you for looking for ways and asking for input on ways to improve the effectiveness of your organization. It is very important that the ASBA look closely at their role going forward. After all, your work is on behalf of the provinces most valuable resource – our children. Well done!