Earlier this week, I was privileged to facilitate a 1 1/2-day “High-Impact Governing Work Session” involving 15-some Southern Fairfield County, Connecticut superintendents – a group that meets monthly under the leadership of the New Canaan superintendent, Bryan Luizzi. We were joined by the executive directors of Cooperative Educational Services, (Charles Dumais), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (Fran Rabinowitz), and the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (Robert Rader). One of the six presentation-discussion modules making up our 1 1/2 days together was “Developing Your Board’s Self-Management Capacity.” The board self-management function, as most of our readers no doubt know, consists of two key elements: developing the people on your board; and managing your board’s governing performance. One of the nine breakout groups we employed over the course of our 1 ½ days together took a close look at an important facet of board human resource development: indirectly enriching your board’s composition. The breakout group began by fashioning a profile of desirable board member attributes and qualifications and then identified practical ways to share the profile widely in the community. The following excerpt from Chapter 7 of my new book, Building a High-Impact Board-Superintendent Partnership (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) takes a look at this facet of the board self-management function.
A governing board isn’t an abstract organizational unit within the mother organization; it’s essentially living and breathing human beings. And the people serving on the board, more than any other factor, determine how effective the board will be in carrying out its governing responsibilities. Recognizing this, many – probably the great majority of – nonprofit boards, which are overwhelmingly self-appointing, devote substantial time every year – typically through the board’s governance or board operations committee – to filling vacant board seats with qualified candidates. Their governance committee develops a detail profile of desired attributes and qualifications to use in identifying and screening candidates to fill board vacancies. For example: successful experience on other nonprofit boards; commitment to the nonprofit’s mission; able and willing to commit the time to participate fully in the deliberations of the board and the assigned standing committee; a collegial style/team player; a high community profile; extensive community connections; and the like. And many boards take this a step further by pinpointing particular sectors and groups that should be represented on the board (e.g., small business; CEOs; women; racial minorities; etc.).
This obviously isn’t in the cards in the K-12 sector, where almost all school board members are elected. But a growing number of school boards around the country, recognizing the people serving on school boards have a tremendous impact on governing effectiveness, are exercising indirect influence on their composition. The process typically begins by the board’s governance or board operations committee updating a profile of desirable board member attributes and qualifications and, after securing full board signoff, sharing the profile in a wide variety of community forums, such as chamber of commerce and Rotary luncheons and civic association meetings. The point is not only to raise public consciousness about the hugely important work school boards do and the board member traits that tend to strengthen a board’s governing performance, but also to spark interest in running for the school board.