KASB President’s Perspective: School boards can learn from each other

By Shannon Kimball
KASB President
Lawrence USD 497

Halloween has not arrived yet, but December is right around the corner, and that means it is almost KASB Annual Conference time!

I am excited about the learning and networking opportunities available this year—our KASB staff and board of directors are working hard to ensure our conference will provide board members and district leaders with a wide range of opportunities to share what they are doing in their districts and to participate in learning so we can all return to our communities with new knowledge to benefit our students.

Sessions at the Annual Conference will allow board members, if they wish, to choose sessions that focus on a particular learning need.
Our keynote speaker this year, Tim Hodges from the Gallup polling firm, will share his many years of education research experience and show us how understanding public opinions on education can equip board members to address the current and future challenges faced by our schools.

I really hope I see each of you in Wichita this year, or at another learning opportunity offered by our Association, and here’s why.

Professional development

During the past decade of budget challenges, professional development for ourselves, (as well as for teachers and other district staff) has often been a casualty of budget reductions, in a laudable effort by boards to minimize the direct negative impacts of budget cuts and inadequate funding on students and programs. Yet these learning opportunities form an essential pillar of highly effective board work.

In 2011, the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education identified “team development and training, sometimes with their superintendents, to build shared knowledge, values and commitments for their improvement efforts” as one of eight essential characteristics of effective school boards.

School boards in high achieving districts, as part of their board culture, embrace frequent opportunities for inquiry and discussion. These boards participate in formal, deliberate training for new board members. They engage in a range of other activities individually and as a group with their superintendent that support relationship building, learning, and alignment of board work and culture with the district’s mission and goals.

Value for school boards

We should support our teachers and staff with access to robust programs of professional development. We should also place the same expectations of continuous learning on ourselves. Committing time and resources to board development is important; in the long run, a lack of high-quality professional development for board members creates costs for our districts in the form of less-than-ideal policy making and leadership strategies. Committing time and resources to board development that engages us in networking with our peers across the state is also extremely valuable. Such opportunities build our understanding of the unique challenges of diverse communities across the state and show us how other districts have approached similar problems. Sometimes, these shared conversations help to highlight new issues or challenges that are heading our way.

In a recent survey, our members have shared that networking (96 percent of respondents) is one of the top three reasons they choose to attend the annual conference, along with session topics (98 percent) and education value (94 percent). Learning from each other and the diverse experiences and perspectives we each live in our board work improves that work for the benefit of our districts and, ultimately, our students.

I hope you will take advantage this school year of the many excellent learning opportunities offered through your KASB membership—whether that is attending the Annual Conference, registering for classes in our newly-designated training pathways, mentoring a new board member through KASB’s new board member training, or inviting KASB staff to your district to facilitate a board retreat or other learning opportunity. We are all better board members when we learn together and from each other, and ultimately our students and staff will benefit greatly from the time and resources we commit to our own learning.

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