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Convention Save the Date

Board Operations

Principles for Positive Board and Superintendent Relations

IASB and School Administrators of Iowa have joined together to promote positive board/administrator relations in every Iowa school district. From the beginning, our primary goal has been to highlight techniques that will foster good working relationships between administrators and their boards.

To do this, the two organizations conducted an informal survey of Iowa board members and administrators who have been successful in building strong foundations. Their suggestions are shared here.

These principles will be a valuable resource for you. You may even list additional strategies that will work in your district. By putting these applications to work, IASB and SAI hope you will develop a strong foundation built on positive board/administrator relations and see your schools succeed as a result of your efforts.

Principle 1:
Clarify roles and expectations for board members and superintendent.

Strategies:
  • Hold forums or one-on-one meetings to provide school board candidates with a clear picture of what is expected of them if they are elected.
  • Establish the expectation that the entire team be committed to continuous learning. Encourage participation in the Iowa Association of School Boards’ Academy of Board Learning Experiences (ABLE) and other IASB and School Administrators of Iowa learning opportunities.
  • Stress the importance of planning and policy making as the board’s primary functions. Let board members know how plans and policies relate to the district’s vision and mandates.
  • Revisit annually to reaffirm role expectations of the superintendent and administrators.
  • Encourage each other to be prepared and to participate in appropriate activities.

Principle 2:
Establish and implement a clear process for communication between board members and administration.

Strategies:
  • Develop a communication plan. Clearly state who needs to know what and when. Don’t forget to explain how you will communicate during emergencies.
  • Provide activities that encourage board members and administrators to build their listening and decision-making skills.
  • Hold periodic board meetings in the district’s schools and enjoy a student presentation or ask the building principal to conduct a tour before the meeting.
  • Hear accountability reports from principals on building effectiveness in reaching district goals.
  • Pick up the telephone instead of worrying about an issue—keep the lines of communication open.
  • Provide board members with regularly scheduled updates, including both good and bad news, in accordance with the open records law requirements. Include a calendar of any upcoming events which board members might attend.
  • Allow regular opportunities for principals to report directly to the board during board meetings.
  • Allow the board president and superintendent to build the meeting agenda together.
  • Do not surprise others at the board table.
  • Clearly state the process governing board member communications about building-level issues. Clarify the superintendent’s role and that of the building administration and staff.

Principle 3:
Actively work to build trust and mutual respect between the board and administrative team.

Strategies:
  • Develop a vision/mission statement for the district. Express and clarify core beliefs and develop an ethical behavior statement for the board, superintendent and administrators. Revisit these throughout the year.
  • Respect the opinions of others, even if they differ from your own. Express disagreement openly and rationally, and agree to disagree when consensus cannot be reached.
  • Identify activities that build trust in a relationship and apply them to board/administrator work.
  • Recognize each other’s successes. Help each other succeed.
  • Remain focused on issues—not personalities—when discussions become heated.
  • Participate in learning activities together. Acknowledge that all participants have something to contribute.

Principle 4:
Evaluate the whole team.

Strategies:
  • Conduct superintendent, board and district evaluations using district goals as the core ingredient of each evaluation.
  • Make sure a meaningful process is clear to everyone involved in the evaluation.
  • Identify indicators to be used to assess goals or evaluation criteria.

Principle 5:
Actively work on improved decision making.

Strategies:
  • Recognize board members’ expertise in different areas and ask for advice when making decisions.
  • Provide information in a timely manner. Board members should communicate to the superintendent prior to meeting when more information is needed.
  • Seek the advice of legal counsel when necessary. Determine who can seek advice of the district’s legal counsel for the board.
  • Propose more than one solution to a complex problem. Allow for discussion.
  • Support the final decision of the board.

Related Resources