Welcoming New School Board Members

Welcoming New School Board Members

Joining a board of education might not be as scary as walking into first grade when you were a child, but it is still a new beginning.

By now you have no doubt been in touch with your new board members and even started your own onboarding processes. There are several things you can do to make the transition from newly-elected board member to a full part of the team just a little easier. And just as January is the start for new board members, it is also the start of a new complete board. This makes it a great time to introduce your board of education to your staff and community and highlight the important work they will be doing.

In advance of the first meeting –

  • Create an announcement about the new board and share with media, on social media, on your website, in your newsletter, in an email to all staff, and also send to buildings to use in their building newsletters.
  • Set up meetings for board members with building principals and offer tours of facilities.
  • Register the new board members for KASB’s Foundations of Boardsmanship 1.0. See schedule below or at https://kasb.org/training-events/
  • Assign a mentor (another board member) to serve as someone who can answer questions.
  • Share a calendar of events through at least June 2020, highlighting board of education meetings and other special events.
  • Plan Recognition of out-going members (Plaque/Gifts, Event and Timing of Recognition)
  • Create a district-at-a glance publication that includes names, phone numbers and email addresses of fellow board members, district and building staff; district information such as building names/addresses, enrollment; a list of all regularly scheduled meetings. Make sure it is easy to read and contains frequently needed information.

Pro Tip – Consider creating a picture directory of key staff. This can help your board members learn names/faces more easily.

At your first meeting –

  • Ask the board president to thank each new member publicly (and returning members as well) for making the commitment to serve on the board. Find out and share a bit about each member – such as what they do for a living, if they have children or grandchildren in the district, or invite each board member to share a few things about themselves.
  • Make sure each board member has a small card or note at their place with their user name and password for the meeting room wi fi.
  • Also make sure each board member has a nameplate for the board meeting table, name badge and business cards.
  • Arrange for individual pictures (make the appointments for them  if using a professional photographer) or invite a photographer to take a group picture of your board at its first meeting. Your high school yearbook class might be able to help!

Pro Tip – Hang a copy of the picture in your district office, post on social media and include on your website along with contact information for board members.

Orientation doesn’t stop with the first board meeting. Continue to meet individually with board members to review roles, responsibilities and expectations. This also gives them a chance to ask questions. See below for quick start board orientation program or contact KASB Leadership Services Staff for more information.

Pro Tip – One key ingredient to a successful team is communication. Be sure to focus on expectations and processes, and set up a district email address for board business for your board members if they would like one.

Create a formal welcome packet: Include such items as…

  • Welcome letter signed by the board president and superintendent.
  • A description of the duties of board members, including operating principles, code of conduct, etc.
  • Copies of the minutes from last year’s board meetings.
  • A copy of the latest strategic plan.
  • Board governing documents, including by-laws, policies, etc.
  • A copy of the budget for the year.
  • A list of all the board members, including addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and a brief bio.
  • Committee descriptions, goals, and list(s) of committee members.
  • Include a brief overview of how the business of the district is conducted. For example: Who is on the superintendent’s leadership team? How often do they meet? Do you have regularly scheduled principal meetings? Also list the community committees and boards the superintendent attends as a representative of the district.

KASB Foundations of Boardsmanship 1.0

  • January 11, 2020 Haysville, The Learning Center
  • January 16, 2020 Topeka, Maner Conference Center (in conjunction with the Advocacy in Action Conference)
  • January 25, 2020 Hays, The Venue and Greenbush ESC
  • February 8, 2020 Garden City, Board Office
  • February 15, 2020 KASB Topeka

Quick Start Orientation

  • Nuts and Bolts – The board president and vice president provide information on how motions are made and approved, how executive sessions are conducted, how board meetings are organized and how the agenda is developed. They also discuss board committees, how business matters are presented, the board’s bylaws or accepted operating principles and the district’s strategic plan.
  • Nitty-Gritty – New board members should be aware that the school board only exists when it sits in a legal meeting; other than that, individual members and groups of members have no board power. Also review open meetings rules.
  • General tips – Board members – particularly new members – are targeted by special interest groups or individuals with personal agendas. Help new members become aware of how complaints are handled and ways to respond gracefully when challenged. It is essential that a new board member immediately learn the “chain of command” for complaints and refer constituents to the proper staff member.
  • The Legal Stuff – Legal counsel can explain statutory responsibilities in public school governance, as well as the board’s role and function. This topic is often misinterpreted by the public and incoming board members will be unfamiliar with the legalities and complexities of today’s school districts.
  • The Big Picture – District Operations and Issues Briefing – The superintendent and district staff explain district operations, administration, operating policies for conducting school business, personnel matters, evaluation of staff, budgeting and finance, facilities and grounds, curriculum, instruction, measuring student performance, accreditation and accountability.

KASB’s Leadership Services can provide a comprehesive orientation plan. Learn more about onboarding and board orientation by visiting the KASB Leadership Services Website