Board development bill offers opportunity to build better school districts
Monday, March 29, 2021
Our community culture changes and evolves and so must schools. Events of the past few years have highlighted the heightened needs of our students, bringing them front and center where they should be. To give Oregon students the best schools and programs to put them on a path to success, school boards also need some guidance.
Senate Bill 334 would require board members and their superintendents to have training in several areas, including public record laws, government ethics laws and equity and inclusion. The OSBA Legislative Policy Committee supports this training, but some board members don’t see the need for this type of formalized development.
OSBA Board members worked with COSA to create the bill. A local board self-assessment would help guide the training choices. Boards would create a professional development plan to become better elected officials.
“A great deal of care and thought went into the process of creating a professional development plan for Oregon school boards and superintendents,” said OSBA Board Vice President Sonja Mckenzie, the Parkrose School Board chair. “Our first conversations centered on the goal we all share: doing what’s best for all our students around the state.”
Mckenzie said that board members’ personal ideologies, lack of interest in new policies and resistance to training have set up many boards for conflicts that impact their district’s performance. She said boards need a resource to build skills for collaboration, effective communication and team decision-making.
“Board development is a key to providing the tools for board members to annually review and recommit to their role and responsibilities, commit to personal development, and create a culture of professional board participation that will benefit the districts they serve,” she said.
OSBA already offers a wide range of training, but some districts don’t use those services. I am not naïve, and I understand that not everyone embraces a new training opportunity.
Legislative Policy Committee member Fred Brick, a South Coast Education Service District board member, said mandated training is a “heavy-handed” way for Salem to expand its oversight of local school boards. Although the bill is presented as an equity measure, the required extra training could discourage some potential school board candidates with limited free time, he added.
OSBA Board Secretary-Treasurer Patti Norris, a Crook County School Board member, said ensuring board members understand their responsibilities is important but she is concerned about the enforcement mechanism.
“Would an entire district be penalized because one board member is unable or unwilling to participate in training?” she said.
Personally, I hope you all embrace this opportunity to create a local solution to training that encourages thoughtful discussion and actions that help elevate all students. As elected officials, you have a tremendous impact on your students and community. A better understanding of your role along with how to collaborate within the board and with superintendents and the community is the best way to support all your students.