The Five Core Elements of an Effective School Board

The same issues threaten every school board. Data breaches, derailed meetings, federal investigations, perceived secrecy, corrupt contracts, and document leaks undermine public trust in districts large and small, in rural outposts and major metropolitan areas alike. To outsiders, some boards appear magically insulated from these perils. In fact, top-performing school boards exhibit fivecore elements that any of their peers can adopt.

  1. Security Savior-Faire. Informed, pro-active security management leads the list because substandard practices can have such devastating consequences. With school boards being choice targets of ransomware rackets and identity theft schemes, it is imperative that boards are more James Bond than Mr. Magoo. State-of-the-art security requires:
  1. Structured Meetings. Dysfunctional school board meetings accomplish nothing, breed resentment, and signal incompetence. The frequency of such failed meetings is evidenced by the common jokes and media images of the school board meeting as a three-ring circus in which disgruntled citizens easily run the show. Enforcing a few policies creates structure that welcomes the public while keeping the reins of control clearly in the hands of the chairman of the board. The policies are simple:
  1. Maximal Transparency. Make it as simple as possible for constituents to find any information they may desire – barring confidential information, naturally. With online feedback forms, communication between each citizen and the school board can continue between meetings. A good board portal will even let you post your own taped video footage of meetings alongside the minutes.
  2. Confidential Document Protection. The openness of maximal transparency is a mixed blessing, given the critical information to which school boards are privy. Again, look to the board portal itself for the solution. Role-based authorization consistently keeps board-only versions of documents accessible to the board and nobody else. A scrubbed version of sensitive documents will appear when portal users with different roles click on the same tab on their user interface.
  3. Freedom from Corruption. Are school board elections cloaked in mystery? Does one family dominate the school board and the town committee that holds the purse strings? Do cronies get coveted contracts with inflated charges? If so, no amount of procedural genius can create the trust that breeds active community engagement. The best school boards steer clear of such dubious practices. If a predecessor left them with a mess, they clean it up.

These fivecore elements make school boards rise to the top of the class. Putting them into practice can bring any school board the “magic” that charms the leading districts in the country.


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