The January 27 article on this blog – “May the (Centrifugal) Force Not Be With You!” – talks about one of the most insidious enemies of a really cohesive board governing team: the centrifugal force caused by board members’ loyalty to the constituencies who elected them. And this constituency focus is closely related to a mind-set that sees the school board as a kind of legislative body, balancing constituency expectations, rather than as a traditional nonprofit corporate governing board. This is generally bad news from a team-building perspective. But the good news is that the great majority of school members I’ve come across over the years really do have their districts’ best interests at heart, and they really do want to do a good governing job. So we’re talking dual loyalties that can be – and often are – in conflict, which means that in the interest of good governance, board-savvy superintendents are obliged to spend lots of time helping their boards become really solid governing teams despite the in-built tension that comes with dual loyalties.
Two of the board-savviest superintendents I know – Oliver Robinson of Shenendehowa Central School District (New York) and Aaron Spence of the Virginia Beach City Public Schools (Virginia) – have recorded a podcast for this blog that is chock-full of practical wisdom that you can put to work in your districts in building cohesive board governing teams. Oliver and Aaron agree that fully developed boards that have a firm grasp of their governing role and are capable of governing at a high-level tend to function as more cohesive governing teams. And they both believe that involving board members in intensive retreats and keeping them abreast of district developments are reliable tools for fostering board teamwork.
Oliver and Aaron don’t have a defensive bone in their bodies; the last thing they’re worried about is the specter of board “micromanagement.” So they encourage frequent school board member interaction with members of their executive teams as a way of fostering teamwork. In fact, in the Shenendehowa Schools, according to Oliver, board members actually serve as liaisons to committees involving staff and community members at the building and district level. They’ve learned what many other board-savvy superintendents know: the we-they mentality works against a cohesive board governing team.
Let’s let Oliver and Aaron take it from here.