It’s was my observation during my tenure as a school board member that the vast majority of board members are serving for the right reasons. But regardless of why you chose to serve, here are ten key practices, if implemented will make you an outstanding board member.

It’s not about you. It’s about children. When you keep children in the forefront of all your decisions and actions, you are fulfilling your most important duty. As I speak to and consult with school boards, I tell them if they make a decision that does not benefit children, it’s the wrong decision. Why not go back for the last year and review all board decisions, and more importantly decisions that you made using this measuring stick.

You need a strong customer focus—taxpayers, parents, employees, children. In each customer listed there are ways you can truly offer them the best service.
For taxpayers: Be stewards of a sound fiscal policy. Don’t be shy about questioning expenditures or requesting reasons for projects and the expected outcomes. You also have the obligation to learn the fundamentals of sound budgetary practices so you can be smart stewards of public monies.

For parents: Be sure there is a procedure to get answers to their questions and for accessing information about the district or the performance of their children. Listen to their concerns and, if need be, provide a mechanism for them to approach the entire board. Never become the “savior” or assume the “I’ll get it done” mentality because you only represent one vote and are not the sole decision maker for the board.

For employees: It’s important to pay a decent wage and to provide decent facilities and resources while expecting accountability to perform assigned work. But remember, as a board, you only manage the superintendent. Require him or her to keep you informed on employee performances. Benefits without accountability are no more than charitable donations to a potential lost cause. And lastly, don’t eliminate your own accountability to serve honestly and earnestly.

For children: Provide the best educational opportunities for every student. That goal demands teachers teach, administrators lead, students prepare their studies, support personal support and parents participate. Accountability for all is the “Gold Standard.”
Make all decisions in the light of day. No secret phone surveys, straw polls or moving quorums. Transparency is your mode of operation. Nothing builds mistrust more than the perception or reality the board is “plotting” in private. Let everyone know what you are doing, why you are doing it, what are the outcomes you expect and how much funding will be required. You’d be amazed what the public will support when they sense all your decisions are in the best interest of children and are made openly at public meetings.

Monitor the budget. Avoid reckless spending. Unfortunately, some boards spend like drunken sailors, offer benefits that are not sustainable or simply fund projects with absolutely no benefit to children. School districts are supported with taxes. That being the case, is it not reasonable to hold the board accountable for how monies are spent?

Assessments, Audits and Action—the important triple play! Nothing was ever moved to greatness without consistent and constant assessment of performance. Outstanding leaders are always monitoring their results. They must know where they are and then devise new habits to grow skills. Use a 3rd party to audit all processes, particularly specific areas of concern or strong accountability. While auditing, it would be prudent to add safety and environmental concerns to the list. That may save you an expensive lawsuit. Action speaks louder than words. Take action on audit findings. Assess actions taken and implement changes to help the district grow and prosper in its educational responsibilities.

Political Posturing rather than teambuilding. Whether you ran for office or got appointed, there will be some politics in the mix. However, your job is to promote a team spirit, not politics. Teamwork provides a focused view of the future and helps the board to become a team of like-minded people serving children rather than self-serving politicians.

Crossing the administrative line of authority. Of all the “sins” committed by school boards, this one leads the pack. Some board members are notorious for wanting to be superintendents, principals or supervisors. (Funny how they don’t want to teach!) However, the legal reality is boards only make policy and monitor if their policies are being implemented. If a school is not being run well, work through your superintendent to institute the needed changes. That’s the only way to do your job properly and legally.

Complacent attitude. Complacency is a bit like seating in the back seat while someone else steers the car. An important aspect of your job is to grow your knowledge on every facet of school district activities. Complacency lulls and dulls your ability to make the maximum impact and has no place in the domain of educating children—at any level of the system.

Taking responsibility. The characteristic of true leaders is they take responsibility for their actions. Leaders set the tone for the type of environment present in an organization. Leaders accept the credit for their actions that result in a positive outcome. Just keep that humble hat on your head no matter how great the accomplishment. Humility is an integral part of taking responsibility.

Did I tell you that it’s all about children?

Author's Bio: 

Billy Arcement is a former 12 year member of his local board and two term state president of the Louisiana School Boards Association. He has authored numerous articles on school board service and is a popular speaker at school board conferences and a facilitator of school board retreats. He is also speaks on leadership and personal development topics. Call (225) 572-2804 or email Learn more about his services at © 2016