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Eadie Shares Strategies to Build a High-Functioning Board in a Pre-Convention Workshop

Seldom are school board members the problem with governance in a school district, said Doug Eadie at Wednesday’s AASA preconference workshop titled “Cementing the School Board-Superintendent Governing Partnership.”

The root of a problem relationship between superintendent and board of education, he said, “could be the culture or [the need for structure] on working together.”

Eadie, a consultant on school board-superintendent relations, has insight and practical advice for the challenges of cultivating a high-functioning governing body.  By this, he means a board that is focused on the complex decisions of the budget and the long-range strategic plans and not the daily agenda that is best left to school district’s professional staff.

At a steady clip, Eadie covered topics ranging from trends of K-12 governance, attributes of a high-functioning governance team, advice about board committee structure and making the chair an ally.

Board-savvy superintendents must educate board members about the appropriate roles of the governance team, and Eadie strongly advised attendees to delegate appropriate tasks to the board whenever possible.

“Don’t do this all yourselves!” Eadie told the superintendents at his workshop. ”That does not create ownership among the board.”

It’s far better, he added, to develop board members in the work of governance, to help them feel pride in their work and to bolster their self-esteem. Developing the board helps get them engaged in the work and enables superintendents to focus on being the chief board developer, the chief relationship manager and the chief governing process designer, according to Eadie.

When board members are involved in micromanagement, superintendents need to respond by strengthening the structures and processes for engaging school board members.

Superintendents face two challenges when improving board performance. They must develop the individuals on the board as well as the board itself as an entity, Eadie explained.

He recommends superintendents invite the board president to lunch, get to know him or her and then ask the president to assist with the board orientation and provide a short PowerPoint of key points.  

An interesting fact: The least favorite board behaviors include a failure to attend board meetings and an unwillingness to hold people responsible.

“You can’t discipline your board,” Eadie said. “It’s not in your job description.” Instead, he advised superintendent to make board development a high priority “just as you do for every department, the finance department, the department of curriculum and instruction.”

(Liz Griffin is senior reporter on AASA’s Conference Daily Online.)

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