Protocol for Working with Board Members

Dec 4, 2014

by Bob Thompson



I. Before he/she gets on the board

  1. Discuss with the board that candidates, especially new candidates, will want information from you (they can get it anyway through freedom of information) and that you would rather invite them in rather than have them demand it. (It is best to do this well before the election before anyone know is if there will be a contested race).
  2. Ask the board if they would like for you to set up two different workshops:
    • Academy for aspiring board members or anyone interested in learning about the job of board member. This would be a 3 or 4 session meeting (usually for a couple of hours on Saturday mornings) before the window for filing opens up.
    • Board Orientation of new board members to review board goals, operating procedures, vision, superintendent evaluation process, etc. This session is conducted by the board and is best done before the first regular board meeting after the election.
  3. Let the board know that by the nature of your job you must be totally neutral during the election, i.e. that you cannot support or oppose anyone

II. During the election

  1. Let all candidates know that you be happy to meet with them and get them any information they need or want. And don’t allow anyone to pull you into a discussion about the merits of any candidate – incumbent or otherwise.

III. After the election but before he/she is seated

  1. Invite him/her to come to you office and you will introduce them around the district. This meeting might go on for several hours so your agenda should be clear for the day). Resist the impulse to “tell” them what their job is. Let the board do that. You just make sure they meet everyone that they will be interacting with – including the principals. (In larger districts this might best be handled in a meeting of the principals at the Adm. Bldg.)
  2. Give (don’t send) them all pertinent documents, equipment, etc. that they will need to function as a board member.
  3. If board members are issued a computer, ask your tech to meet you and the new board member in the board room and be there as the tech sets up the equipment and explains how it works. Then you can add how you use it to keep the board informed regarding board packets, weekly reports, agenda, etc.
  4. Tell the new board member that you are available at all times and give him/her your cell phone and email address.
  5. Tell the new board member that board members sometimes want to talk with you privately to ask questions, get information, etc. and you provide that by meeting those board members for lunch, inviting them to the office to visit with staff, etc, and you usually facilitate that by having your secretary call each board member a couple of days before the board meeting to see if they have any questions or would like to visit with you.

IV. After he/she is on the board

  1. Try to meet every member (individually and preferably at his/her office or at a restaurant) just to give them time to talk about their vision for the district, things that upset the, etc. The rule is that you talk no more than 20% and that you do a lot of listening.
  2. Alert the board that in an interest of making sure everyone has all of the information they need to vote on an agenda item, that you will be having your secretary call each of them a couple of days before the board meeting and ask them if they want to come in and meet with you or talk on the phone about anything on the agenda.
  3. Model the decision-making process when telling the board of an administrative decision you made, or when making a recommendation to the board.
    1. When making a decision or reviewing with the board a decision you have made:
      • Identify the problem as you saw it
      • List the various options you considered for solving the problem
      • Identify the consequences (both positive and negative) of choosing each of the options.
      • Select the consequences you can live with
      • Select the option that gives you those consequences
    1. When making a recommendation to the board:
      • Identify the problem and (if necessary) get board agreement
      • List the various options you considered for solving the problem and seek input for other options
      • Identify the consequences as you see them (both positive and negative) of choosing each of the options and ask for more consequences you might have missed.
      • Ask the board which group of consequences (both positive and negative taken together) they can live with.
      • Recommend the option that goes with the consequences the board most agrees with

V. After he/she retires or loses his/her seat on the board:

  1. Sometime during the middle of the year when there is no pending election, get the board to agree on the following:
    1. What is the protocol you want to follow when honoring future outgoing board members, e.g.?
      • When will it be done, e.g. last board meeting
      • Who will do it e.g. president, most senior board member, etc?
      • What (if anything) will be presented to the outgoing board member, e.g. plaque, small gift, a “roasting” of the member, etc?
  2. Consider asking the board if they would like to host all former board members at an annual dinner, lunch, etc.? (This might be a social at a board member’s house and include the spouses – which makes it more informal and not subject to open meeting laws since no business will be transacted.)
    1. Purpose:
      • To honor those who have served the district as a board member.
      • Renew acquaintances and let the former board members get to know the new members and vice-versa.
      • To build continuity of leadership.
      • Have them to continue to think of themselves as guardians of a quality education for children.
      • To have them exchange stories, etc. that build camaraderie among the group. (In fact a part of the “program” might be to have each to tell a funny thing that happened while they were on the board.)
    2. The possible benefits of such a meeting are:
      • Keep them informed on the accomplishments the district has achieved and the problems you face.
      • Bing them up to date on your goals, vision, etc.
      • To, at some future date, be able to enlist their support in a district endeavor, e.g. building program, tax rollback election, etc.