What Are the Benefits of Board Member Development Programs?

Lena Eisenstein
5 min read
School boards have the ability to cultivate a culture within the district that values development, personal and professional growth, and continuing education. To be resilient and effective leaders school boards must participate in practices that improve the skills and knowledge of board members, while enhancing board and district procedures.

School board members serve as representatives of their community and work to promote student success and achievement. When performing such important work, evaluative processes and opportunities for board member development are vital. These practices promote reflection of the current functions of the board and identify areas for growth to improve board and district performance.

Effective school board governance requires boards to assess their performance and to truly take action in making progress where there is room for improvement. The increasing utilization of board management tools, programs for board development, and board performance evaluation software can lead to more efficient and effectual assessment of the board and support progress.

In order for school board members to improve in their skills, knowledge, and performance, it is imperative that they take fundamental steps toward progress. Boards must recognize the importance of self-evaluation, to identify where board members, policies, procedures, and other areas can be enhanced.

Then, leveraging this knowledge, boards can take advantage of board member development opportunities in order to tackle these issues head-on, working to better the performance of the board and the district.

Board Self-Assessment is Essential

School boards are not only accountable for their choices, but for the outcomes of those choices. Accountability for school boards means taking responsibility related to student achievement. Effective school boards recognize the importance of reflection and self-evaluation, and how it relates to the performance of the district, schools, and students.

Participation in assessment provides school boards the opportunity for thorough examination of the strengths of the board and district and areas for growth. This knowledge can equip boards in establishing goals, developing policies, and exploring new areas for training or creating standards.

There are many benefits to the self-assessment of the board.
  • Establishes and maintains accountability between board members, district staff, and the community.
  • Supports the practice of reflection by school board members on individual member and collective board conduct and performance.
  • Promotes trust and open communication.
  • Identifies the strength and weaknesses of the board's policies and procedures.
  • Engages the board in effective goal-setting and long-term planning.
School boards that make the effort to support honest and constructive dialogue about the board's responsibilities as a governance leadership team has a greater opportunity of successfully working toward achieving the vision and goals of the district.

Effective and efficient governance is a great team effort that requires thorough and continuous assessment and reflection. The performance evaluation process can lead to district success only if the school board works to support a culture that prioritizes this type of evaluation at all levels.

Board self-evaluations that are carefully conducted cultivate a culture in which deep, straightforward discussions can take place regarding how the board conducts itself, completes board work, and how the board guides the district. Often these conversations are challenging and uncomfortable for participants, but are vital for growth and progress to take place.

Board Member Development and Benefits

Board development programs provide school board members with focused and structured opportunities to gain knowledge and skills to more effectively govern their school districts.

These programs can provide continuing education on a variety of topics and skills, like responsible governance models, collaborative leadership, superintendent and board member relations, interacting with the community, conducting effective board meetings, developing and implementing policies and procedures, and more.

When board members take advantage of these opportunities, operations in the school district and board practices (goal-setting, aligning resources, communication, etc.) can increase in efficiency and effectiveness, leading to a more successful and accomplished district.

Development programs are available through a variety of resources. Some state associations may offer webinars or events where board members can participate in workshops to enhance in these areas. Some boards may use retreats, special meetings, or work sessions to participate in activities for learning and development. These opportunities must be met with a willingness on the part of board members to participate and identify ways to grow as individuals, as a board, and as a district.

While there may be costs associated to participate in some of these events, it is important that school boards recognize the investment being made and the dividends that can be gained. When district leaders invest in themselves through developing knowledge and skills, there are benefits toward accomplishing district goals and supporting student success.

Research shows that school boards who participate in self-assessment and development opportunities are more effective, leading to higher-achieving school districts. In lower-performing districts, board members often claim they do not learn together. Successful boards, those who actively participate in opportunities for development, establish a standard and commitment to the importance of professional development and accomplishing goals for the district.

Technology That Supports Board Member Development

Studies have shown that effective boards who take advantage of development opportunities are positively correlated with lower dropout rates, a higher percentage of students matriculating to college, and higher test performance than districts with less effectively governed boards.

The right technology, like Community by Diligent, supports board development through the ability to securely maintain and access pertinent board information from any location or device. School board members can be empowered in their roles through seamless, streamlined access to important materials and documents.

School boards and administrators can maintain materials related to self-assessment. Information related to the performance of schools, the district, and the board can be securely maintained and accessed for continuous reference as the board works toward greater effectiveness. Community can also link these documents to meeting agendas and minutes. The board can even adjust privacy settings to allow the public to view pertinent information.

Leveraging Community, school boards and district leaders can be supported in their work toward professional development and continued learning. Technology can be a valuable resource that can encourage a more effective and efficient board performance, leading to district success and achievement.

For board members to make progress together and as a district there must be a clear and focused strategy for improvement. This begins with self-assessment and continues with an actionable plan for the continuing education and development of skills for the board. School board development programs provide board members with focused and structured opportunities to gain knowledge and skills to more effectively govern their districts.