PSBA Bulletin September/October 2021 September/October 2021 - Page 26

2021Start Strong

Developing a District Onboarding Plan for New Directors explains that she and the superintendent will hold a one-hour new member orientation prior to this meeting . Terry responds by explaining how excited he is to work with the board on telling the superintendent how to run the district . He even shares some of the ideas he has for new district initiatives based on a Facebook poll he conducted of the community . Terry says that he wants to be the best possible director for his region and that he will always stick to voting what his constituents tell him . He finishes by saying , “ Thank you for reaching out . I will be sure to bring plenty of questions to orientation . I ’ m really excited to join the board but since I have never attended a school board meeting , I ’ m not quite sure what to expect , honestly .”


Start Strong : Developing a District Onboarding Plan for New Directors Participants will leave with a full year ’ s schedule , a comprehensive and customizable onboarding manual , and a guidance document for board leaders to plan their own onboarding process . Register on myPSBA .
The reality this scenario paints is one school boards face each election cycle – new school directors usually come to service with a few misconceptions about their role and the function of the school board . When these misconceptions are not addressed , they may become significant issues , which can lead to board dysfunction and distress . That ’ s why it ’ s all the more important that orientation effectively address these topics right from the start .
In the example given , it ’ s clear that Terry would benefit from a conversation about the superintendent ’ s role in the district and how this position supports the school board , the board ’ s expectations for proper social media use , and the ways to balance community input while making the best decisions for students . Above all else , he needs an explanation of what is expected of him prior to , during and after a public meeting . Now , let ’ s ask an honest question : Is a one-hour session with the board president and superintendent enough time to have these conversations ? Probably not .
PSBA ’ s board policy 004 Membership usually outlines who is responsible for conducting new member orientation , typically the board president and superintendent . It also includes which materials new directors should be given – the policy manual , current budget statement , audit report and related fiscal materials . While most boards conduct some sort of initial meeting for new directors by following the guidance in this policy , how boards conduct this get-together differs widely . For example , in Terry ’ s case , his board president and superintendent plan on leading a short orientation with only new school directors present . While even a brief orientation will be of some benefit , a one-time training limited to one hour , and which does not include all current members of the board , will not provide Terry a strong foundation from which to start his board service career .
In the recently updated PSBA Board Operations Survey ( see page 39 ), 78 % of respondents indicated that they offer a new member orientation for newly elected / appointed school directors , with 22 % responding that no such orientation was offered . While these numbers are promising , the percentage would probably decrease if asked how many believe their new member orientation was effective in properly preparing new school directors for the challenges of board service . That ’ s because board service is not an easy job and it takes time to learn how to effectively serve – time that , too often , is not afforded to school directors when they are first starting out .
Furthermore , a poor orientation experience may lead to lower school director retention rates . According to PSBA ’ s 2020 Facts and Figures Report , 46 % of PA
Will Smeltzer is PSBA ’ s senior training manager .
24 PSBA Bulletin September / October 2021