Keeping the Board Chair-Superintendent Relationship Healthy: Tips From 6 Really Board-Savvy Superintendents

by | Jul 27, 2015 | Board Savvy Superintendent Blog Archive, Board-Superintendent Relationship

iStock_000020585606Large(1)Our July 1 article at this blog, “Don’t Forget Your Board Chair’s Paycheck,” talks about board-savvy superintendents’ use of nonmonetary compensation to strengthen the working relationship with their board chairs.  For example, the superintendent can make sure that her board chair is publically recognized for his effort on behalf of the district, and can also take steps to ensure that the chair succeeds in leading the board’s deliberations.  Next week I’ll talk about how board-savvy superintendents have tailored their communication style to their chairs’ preferences as a relationship building tool.

Meanwhile, a few weeks ago members of this blog’s Strategic Advisory Committee were asked to share steps they’ve taken to keep the relationship with their board chair healthy.  Here are the first six responses:

6336525e68c46ee745fe3a4184fd3033_400x400Luvelle Brown, Superintendent

Ithaca City School District (New York)

“Recently, I made time to visit my Board President at his place of business.  He found much pride introducing me to his colleagues, direct reports, and others.  We now plan to have all agenda setting and other needed conversations in his place instead of mine.”

DANCE dallas 5221 PREFERREDDallas Dance, Superintendent

Baltimore County Public Schools (Maryland)

“Realizing the Board Chair and Superintendent are the faces of a school system, our Board Chair and I ensure that in public we are together physically and philosophically. We make joint announcements, and we ensure the community always knows we are a team. I speak with our chair frequently, including weekly meetings to ensure cohesion. As with any relationship, constant communication and a commitment to no surprises are the keys to a lasting partnership. Lastly, any success that comes to our system, the Board Chair and Board of Education get the credit.”


DennisDeardenDennis Dearden, former Superintendent and Associate Executive Director

AASA (Virginia )

“My president had been on the Governing Board for 35 years upon my arrival in the district. I immediately saw the passion and skill he had in relating to staff and the community. I took advantage of the many visionary meetings we had and took him along at every school and event that I spoke at. We certainly had separate roles but most importantly we shared the same message. This helped heal a divided community and bring trust back to the staff, teachers association and district.”


_KGR1485Gregory Hutchings, Superintendent

Shaker Heights Schools (Ohio)

“The board chair and I talk every Friday for a weekly check-in. This provides us an opportunity to discuss any information pertaining to constituents as well as build a stronger relationship. Also, I’m able to provide insight to specific decisions made by the administration and use the board chair as a sounding board when needed.”
2014 Dr Rue PhotoKaren Rue, Superintendent

Northwest Independent School District (Texas)

“Working relationships can take time to develop.  In my case, a new board president, a bit hesitant and unfamiliar with the role, required me to step back and reflect on what it takes to build board chair relationships.  After getting to know him better, I realized that it was important to keep him in the loop regarding many of the little things that I considered on cruise control.  A simple phone call at the end of the day, following a district event resulted in a heart-felt thank you from him.  At that point, I remembered one of the known job satisfactions is ‘being in the know’.  We both concluded that call with a smile.”


Snow pic currentLloyd Snow, Superintendent

Sand Springs Public Schools (Oklahoma)

“In my 36 years as Superintendent, I’ve always made it a habit to mention the Board of Education’s vision and dedication led by the current President (rotates yearly by board policy) in every success story. Our last bond referendum passed by 91%. All my correspondence (weekly) is addressed to the President but all members are copied.”


About the Author: Doug Eadie

President & CEO of Doug Eadie & Company, Inc., Doug Eadie assists CEOs in building a high-impact board-superintendent partnership.

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