8 Ways to Be a Great Board Member Today

8 Ways to Be a Great Board Member Today

Accepting a role with your charter school board takes dedication to the mission. But it takes more than caring enough about the education of children to be a great board member. Whether you’re serving on your first public charter school board or you’re a seasoned veteran, these practices will serve you today and throughout your life as a charter board member.

1. Understand Your Role

To be successful and accountable, it’s critical that you understand what your role requires.

Be sure you understand the expectations and fiduciary duties specific to your role, and the overall role of your board.

If your board hasn’t already done so, now is the time to adopt written job descriptions. Individual board members, officers, and committees each need descriptions that outline their unique roles, responsibilities, and expectations.

2. Understand Your Organization

Like any team, your board will be at its best when each member shares a unified vision for success.

This starts with your organization’s charter, mission, and vision. And it means digging a little deeper than the words themselves. Seek to understand the charter promises, the methods proposed to meet and exceed those promises, and how these promises will be measured and reported.

3. Be Present and Prepared at Each Meeting

The work of a charter school board takes place almost exclusively in the form of meetings, so being present is key.

And being present means more than just showing up to each meeting. It means that you show up prepared.

Be sure to read your meeting agenda and packet long enough in advance to consider the topics and develop questions you might have. Organizing those materials online can ensure that every member accesses them in advance, no matter how busy they are.

4. Bring Your Whole Self to Your Role

You’ve been strategically selected to serve on the board of a multi-million-dollar organization filling a vital mission. Not just because you’re amazing {which you are}, but because of the unique skills, talents, connections, expertise, and perspectives you bring.

The strongest boards are diverse, with each person bringing a unique skillset and perspective. Together, the team has what it needs to succeed. But only if each member uses what you bring!

Bottom line: be willing and ready to tap into your considerable skill sets to further your organization’s mission.

This matters. Because decisions are made as a group, with no board member carrying any more or less power than the rest. So the group relies on you to fully participate in each discussion. By sharing your opinions and fully listening to those of others, you help the group make the best decisions possible.

5. Ask Questions — Especially the Tough Ones

Your role is not just about celebrating your organization’s successes. You are there to ask the hard questions, identify challenges, and ensure the organization is serving the students well.

Asking tough questions of your staff and board colleagues will help you and your team avoid becoming a mere ‘rubber stamp.’

Ask the right questions, and enough of them, to get to the crux of complex issues. Seek to understand the school leadership’s decision-making process, and gain confidence that the right things are happening for the right reasons.

6. Connect With Your Community

Your public charter school is a vital part of the community. The school is accountable to the community, and you are accountable for the school’s performance.

The more connected you are to the community, the better equipped you will be to contribute to the school’s performance.

When you’re making decisions, it’s up to you to consider the issues from the multiple points-of-view present in your community — students, parents, teachers, taxpayers, and future students, just to name a few. Each of these groups, and more, bring their own unique day-to-day experiences, priorities, and points of view.

Yet, your position as a board member only gives you a small window into who the school serves and how the community lives.

To get to know the community, seek out events to attend or volunteer at, causes you might make financial contributions to, and find ways to generally keep your fingers on the pulse of the greater community.

7. To Follow the Rules, Know the Rules

You aren’t required to be an expert in the web of laws, regulations, and policies, but you must maintain a certain level of awareness of the rules in order to follow them.

First and foremost, maintain a thorough understanding of regulations including your state’s open meetings act, plus ethics and conflict of interest rules.

And, of course, an awareness of the rules will empower you to know when to ask for advice from your legal counsel.

8. Keep Learning

We encourage our students to be lifelong learners, and we should expect the same from our school leaders — including our volunteer board members.

As education rapidly evolves, charter school boards will wrestle with increasingly complex issues. It’s critical that you continue your professional development as a board member.

Here are some topics you may want to consider for trainings for you and your board colleagues:

  • Governance best practices
  • Accountability
  • School safety & security
  • State testing
  • Social & emotional learning
  • New instructional methodologies
  • The charter school landscape
  • Fundraising strategies
  • Strategic Planning

These 8 tips will serve your charter board today and into the future.

A high-functioning board is vital to any charter organization’s success. Being a great board isn’t just about the time you spend in meetings together. It’s about the kids experiencing the school you’re helping to lead.

Putting these practices to work yourself is a great start. Sharing them with each member of your board will help you all be even better, together.

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