As strange as it sounds, school boards are destined by their design to be dysfunctional. It takes hard work to create a board that doesn’t operate in chaos. Why is this so? Why did Mark Twain write that first God made fools for practice and then he made schools boards?
School boards represent the community with its many interests. All of the taxpayers, parents, elected officials, staff, students, civic organizations, local colleges, vendors, media, etc., want a huge variety of things out of the public school system. The community’s direction is not clear and so the board’s direction is not clear to the administration. ExxonMobil stockholders want profit! The direction is clear. What school boards need is clarity on direction.
At the Center for Reform of School Systems, we recommend that boards determine their core beliefs and commitments to those beliefs. Each board must debate, discuss, and really sweat over what they believe and are willing to commit to with direction and dollars. The superintendent can then build goals and metrics around the core beliefs. The core beliefs become the filter with which to judge the budget, staffing, and program development and elimination.
A board who wants to defy it’s destiny must work proactively to create a high functioning, professional and organized board.