Monday, February 20, 2012

Why You Should Join a Charter School Board

There aren't enough good charter school board members out there! Repeatedly, I hear stories from charter schools that don't get enough candidates for open board positions and there are also endless stories about board members who have ulterior motives.

Being on a charter school governing board is difficult, especially if you're a parent of a student in the school. That means you'll have to remember to represent what's best for the school as a whole and not your own individual child. Further, you'll need to differentiate what "hat" you're wearing--and keep the roles separate--especially when you're dealing with school administration. Being upset about how your son was disciplined should never become part of how a board member evaluates the Principal.

In the past several years, there has been a trend in Colorado for more community members and business professionals to sit on charter school boards. This is very helpful, especially when they bring needed expertise such as legal or financial expertise.

A good charter school board member volunteers a lot of his/her time. It's obvious that an individual serving as President or Secretary would have additional time commitments, but all good board members should plan on attending the annual Board Visit day, assisting in writing reports or communications with the authorizer, promoting the school through networking and attendance at public events and periodically attending the authorizer's board meetings. All board members should monitor their authorizer's board meeting agendas to keep abreast of issues they are dealing with that may impact the charter school.

The types of board members that charter schools DON'T need are those who want to change something. Having change as the primary motivator will probably become very frustrating when change takes longer than intended or others within the system don't want the same type of change.

It's common for new board members to report that the first year they just feel like they're on a perpetual learning curve and they don't get comfortable with board responsibilities until the second year of their service. This is why having two to three years terms is wise. Moreover, terms should be staggered so that not all of the school's knowledge leaves the board at the same time.

Being on a charter school board can be very rewarding! It's great to watch a school system improve and to get to know individual students for whom the charter school has made a huge impact on their lives. Check out your neighborhood charter school to see if they have any openings or if they need a committee volunteer.

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