4 Ways to Welcome New Trustees to Your School Board

4 Ways to Welcome New Trustees to Your School Board

As the school year nears, school boards across the state are welcoming new members to their teams. A three-hour local district orientation is required for new board members within their first 120 days in office. Orientation helps them learn about various aspects of district operations from the superintendent and senior staff.

However, local orientation is only the beginning. In their book, The Governance Core, Campbell and Fullan devote an entire chapter to the value of purposefully onboarding new trustees to the team.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you incorporate new members to your board:

1. You now have a new board, even if you are only adding one new trustee.

New board members join a governance team already in progress. Both new and existing trustees must address what that means for the working culture of the team. Personally, you may need to grieve the loss of former colleagues to move forward productively. Then you can focus on the core work of the board and how the newest members can help accomplish the goals and priorities of the district.

2. Current board members set the tone.

Regardless of the tone of the campaign, new trustees are now your colleagues. They will be critical to the function of the board and success of your district.

Establish a welcoming environment by reaching out with personal phone calls or notes after the election. Put aside any preconceived notions you may have about the new member. Invest in really getting to know them. What priorities do they have? What perspectives do they bring to the board? What knowledge and skills do they have that can help move the district toward its vision? Set an example by listening with an open mind.

3. Actively bring new board members into the group.

Remember what it was like to be a brand-new trustee? There’s so much to learn, but you’re also expected to fully participate in votes and decision-making right away!

The required local orientation focuses primarily on district operations. Current board members are instrumental in providing an orientation to the board’s norms and processes. This is a great opportunity to share current board goals as well as board operating procedures, like how agendas are constructed.

Provide new trustees with a calendar of what to expect throughout the year so they can get a sense of the flow of work. Be sure to also share the timing and process for updating district goals or board processes. Make it clear that their voices can be incorporated into foundational aspects of the board’s work.

Consider dividing orientation tasks among current trustees to be mindful of quorums and other open meetings restrictions.

4. Revisit and recommit to your moral imperative, goals, and collective commitments as a board.

This is the perfect time to revisit the core purpose of the district and the school board. Campbell and Fullan call this the “moral imperative” of the board. Simon Sinek calls it your “why.” Your new governance team will be more effective and efficient if everyone is committed to the same core purpose.

Getting everyone on the same page is a great goal to work toward during the required annual three-hour teambuilding training. TASB hosts this training and can help facilitate a conversation about goals, operating procedures, or other topics that lay a critical foundation for the work ahead of the board.