Top 3 Transparency Challenges for Today's School Boards

Lena Eisenstein
6 min read
A culture of trust and transparency between school boards and the community that they serve can be a struggle to establish and maintain. School boards face many transparency challenges that can impact the level of trust and engagement from the local public.

However, by acknowledging and combating these common transparency challenges, school boards can successfully promote and preserve trust and openness within the community that they serve.

Leveraging the right technology, school boards can prevent and eliminate common transparency challenges that they face. Cultivating trust, community engagement and openness with the public supports the board in doing its best work for the success of the school district.
  1. School board members should be knowledgeable regarding local sunshine laws to combat transparency challenges.

Sunshine laws are regulations that require a certain level of openness and information from school boards. Sunshine laws help combat transparency challenges between school boards and the public constituents they serve.

The purpose of sunshine laws is to ensure that the government and its entities behave and accomplish business in an ethical way. Since public schools are part of the state government, school boards are obligated to comply with sunshine laws.

It is imperative for school boards to explore their states' sunshine laws, as regulations vary by state. Regardless of how each state approaches sunshine laws, the main function of these policies is to make certain that the public is aware of the decisions being made on their behalf and the work that is being accomplished by their representatives.

While it can be tempting to utilize technology like e-mail or conference calls to discuss what may seem like unimportant or non-sensitive business, it can be a major violation of sunshine laws. These violations are serious, and lead to greater transparency challenges and distrust between the public and local government bodies.

The right technology can simplify the school board's responsibility to abide by sunshine laws while reducing transparency challenges. By providing access to school board meeting information and documents (agendas, minutes and related materials), a board management software can maintain all this pertinent information in one seamless location that is easily accessible by school board members, administrators and the public. Transparency challenges are eliminated and a climate of trust is fostered when school boards fulfill their responsibilities guided by sunshine laws.
  1. Reduce transparency challenges that may occur through the improper use of executive session meetings.

School boards work hard to establish trust within the local community, and executive session board meetings can often seem to cause transparency challenges. It is imperative that the board utilizes executive session meetings effectively, efficiently and ethically.

Some school boards will call a closed board meeting for 'personnel reasons' if they feel like their agenda for an open meeting is threatened. Once the board is hidden from public view, decisions are made that should include public input or be made at an open meeting. Using executive session board meetings in this manner is one of the many ways school boards can create their own transparency challenges.

When school board members fall into the bad habit of using executive session meetings in unethical ways, it is imperative that the school board chair revisit important training materials regarding open meeting laws, closed meetings and open meetings with board members.

Every state has reasons that a closed board meeting may be called, and some states greatly differ from others in these reasons. These guidelines for executive session meetings are meant to assist school boards in recognizing and eliminating transparency challenges.

Purposes for closed board meetings may include specific personnel issues, setting strategies for bargaining or litigation, and budget cuts and exemptions. For these reasons, it is imperative that school board members are knowledgeable regarding their states' open meeting laws.

There are several issues associated with executive session board meetings that can lead to transparency challenges; however, these risks can be eliminated through the knowledge of how to properly utilize executive session meetings and leveraging resources that are designed to help reduce the possibility of any of these issues occurring.

When utilizing closed meetings the correct way, boards can still promote trust and transparency within the local community while working toward their goals for student and district achievement.
  1. School boards must leverage resources to eliminate transparency challenges.

How can technology be utilized to eliminate transparency challenges for school boards? School boards often face transparency challenges related to access to information, whether it be meeting information, minutes, agendas or other related materials. The right tools can be leveraged for school boards to streamline relevant information for public access.

In compliance with open meeting laws enforced by their state, school boards can leverage meeting management software to provide meeting materials, district goal information and even videos of meetings in a central online location.

Technology can address transparency challenges faced by school boards by providing user-friendly and easily accessible tools that engage and inform the public about key issues while enabling residents to share their thoughts or concerns.

The communities that school boards serve need access to information to promote accountability and input. Members of the community are stakeholders, and stakeholders have a right to know what the return is on their investment. Providing the appropriate level of information with the public promotes community ownership and trust while reducing transparency challenges.

Board management software can maintain pertinent board materials (such as policies, agendas, minutes, legislation and other important documents) and make this information easily accessible to board members and the public. Creating easier access to pertinent materials for community members to stay informed is key in leveraging technology to reduce school board transparency challenges.

School boards often face transparency challenges, which can make it difficult to establish and foster a community of trust and engagement. It is through the school board that the community can be heard and the schools can be held accountable for their performance. Technology is an important tool in facing and combating transparency challenges.

In today's society, technology and school board transparency go hand in hand. It is discovering how the school board can best leverage technology to eliminate transparency challenges to promote growth and trust.

A secure, streamlined tool can be used to inform and empower public constituents while promoting school board transparency, community trust and engagement. Community by Diligent leverages many key features key to supporting and fostering school board transparency (allowing participants to gain access from any device and ADA compliant). Community by Diligent is an efficient, effective and seamless platform that simplifies the work of the board while supporting board transparency.

Utilizing a single board management software platform, like Community by Diligent with its expansive features, school boards have an increasing number of opportunities to apply technology in ways that will eliminate the transparency challenges often faced by school boards. Investments in technology for school boards are truly worthwhile, as school board transparency supports the board in its best work and encourages community engagement.