by David Koempel
Many local school boards have elected new officers or are in the process of doing so. As with any new role, it is important to have a growth mindset and be open to learning new things. Here are some helpful tips if you are new to the role or thinking about pursuing an officer position in the future.
Understand board roles and responsibilities
As a board member, it is important to understand your role and responsibilities. As an officer, you need to have a deeper understanding of that and the important role each member fills.
“It’s important to remember that as an officer you will have some additional responsibilities, but that does not mean you have more power than other members,” said Esperanza Orosco, Hays CISD trustee and TASB board consultant. “All of the board members – officers and trustees – should have an equal voice.”
Observe and ask questions
It is often said that you can learn by watching. Observe other board officers, and then ask them questions about what it takes to be effective in their role.
“Talk to others who have served as officers,” said Margaret Pruett, board secretary of Victoria ISD. “I found observing how they did their role to be very helpful – watching how they presented themselves and listening to how they dealt with different situations.”
Related: Board Officers (Taking on a Board Officer Role)
Learn policies and operating procedures
Have you ever thought, “I wish I knew that before I started?” A new role can mean new commitments. A good place to look to get clarity on the expectations for boards officers is your BDAA (LOCAL) and (LEGAL) policies, which outlines the duties and requirements for board officers. You should also review your local board operating procedures to clarify your board’s expectations for its officers.
You’ll also want to measure your own expectations of yourself in serving as an officer. “Being the president of the board was very intimidating at first,” said Orosco. “It’s okay to not know everything when you first start.”
The tasks can sometimes be more than you thought. “There is a lot of paperwork to sign as board secretary,” said Pruett. “And you really have to be diligent and read them thoroughly. You want to make sure that there are no errors or mistakes because your name goes on them.”
Get the support you need
It’s important to remember that you are not alone when you become a board officer. TASB is here to support you. We have:
Board Officer Institute: A Journey to Excellence is a unique component of Board Office Institute, (previously known as Board Officers' Academy). This blended learning and multiweek experience gives new and aspiring officers the tools needed to step into a leadership role with confidence. Among other topics, the course will help you:
- Run effective meetings
- Be clear on the roles of board officers
- Work with different types of people
- Give feedback to help your board improve
Orosco and Pruett both participated in A Journey to Excellence and developed valuable skills. For Orosco, it was the meeting management aspect. “It really helped me to be more confident when it came to Robert’s Rules of Order,” she said. “Then getting to practice facilitating a meeting with others and getting feedback was very helpful.”
Pruett most appreciated the active listening skills component. “I really liked learning how to restate what I heard another person saying and asking, ‘did I hear that correctly,’” she said. “It helps to get a perspective on what another person said.”
Orosco, who leads A Journey to Excellence, said this is a great way to stretch yourself as a leader. “Remember that you can always grow,” she said. “Because when you know better, you do better.”
David Koempel is a trustee engagement senior consultant with TASB Board Development Services.
This article was first published on May 23, 2022.