Even the most experienced board members never stop learning the technical details of the job, and those that are successful learn early that being effective requires more than knowing the details of the personnel law or how to interpret the budget. Being a successful board member begins with a genuine commitment to striving for high-quality public education that supports the full development of all children. There are certain skills and attributes which are consistently present in effective board of education members. Here are some steps to consider:
- Be prepared to participate responsibly in your board meetings. Do your homework, come prepared to work, remember that sometimes the work is to listen, agree and disagree as your values dictate, and accept that the group decision is legitimate even if it’s not your personal choice.
- Focus on serving all children. Ensure every deliberation, decision, and action reflects the interests of every student.
- Represent the community, not a single constituency. You will understand and/or identify with certain constituencies (parents, neighborhoods or communities, special education, etc.), but you must remember that being a board member means serving the entire community. You can be from a constituency, however, you must not let yourself solely represent that constituency.
- Contribute to positive group behavior and productivity. Do your part to promote responsible group behavior as part of the board team.
- Honor divergent opinions without being intimidated by them. Express your honest opinions on issues, as should each of the other board members. Encourage your colleagues to speak their opinions and listen to them carefully and respectfully.
- Use your special expertise to inform your colleagues’ wisdom. If you have special expertise (law, accounting, construction, etc.) remember that you’re NOT personally responsible for decisions relating to that area. Use your expertise to help inform your colleagues (e.g., help them understand what fiscal health looks like versus fiscal jeopardy) but don’t assume sole responsibility for those decisions.
- Be aware of the community and staff’s perceptions of the board. The community expects the board to be ethical, honest, transparent, and free from conflicts of interest. Consider how stakeholders might interpret your behaviors and decisions and then act accordingly.