Team habits to develop great candidates
- Encourage key volunteers/leaders in your system and community – “Have you ever considered being a board member?”
- Invite interested leaders to two or three board meetings in a row, each with a greeting time just prior to the official meeting.
- Invite interested leaders to a series of sessions specifically designed to inspire and equip potential members for the challenges facing their school district and the teamWORK needed for great governing.
- Generate press releases describing the election cycle, qualities of excellent boards, etc. Use CASB assets during the election cycle (e.g., letters to the editor (LTEs), press release ideas, online resources, critical issues sheet, special session at fall regionals).
- Host a local candidates breakfast, coffee, evening or other get-together.
- Join together with area boards to host a regional candidates night featuring a wisdom panel of veterans, presentations by CASB staffers and open discussion.
- Provide candidates with written tools that have helped your board become a highly-effective governing team.
- Specifically invite candidates to all governance meetings or major networking opportunities with constituents.
- Hold “focus sessions,” hosted by a board member and a key administrator, to help candidates develop an understanding of the team’s top priorities (e.g., increasing student achievement, financial stability, staff support and development, community engagement, effective governance).
- Add candidates to your meeting announcements.
- Deliver a candidate’s version of each board packet.
- Initiate veteran-candidate “buddy” opportunities, such as coffees, phone calls or pre/post meeting chats.
- Invite each candidate to attend CASB’s regional and fall conference at no expense (pay registration, carpool, debrief, discuss at next regular meeting, etc.).
- Send candidates copies of CASB communications.
- Constantly own, model and mature excellent boardwork. Link to characteristics of excellence: "Standards," "Low-cost Habits," "Evaluating the board/team - Checklists."
Questions to ask a veteran:
- If you had a "do-over" in your candidate season(s), what would be different?
- If you could wave a magic wand over all aspects of board campaigning, what would change?
- What's crucial for candidates to understand about the condition of Colorado public education financing and expectations?
- What candidate values have proven to be essential in mature board leadership?
- What are your best hopes for candidates this year?
- What are your worst fears for this election season?
- What is your one most important mentoring insight for candidates?
- What encouragements would you offer during the first month’s “baby steps?”
- What are the keys to being an effective new board member?
- What habits would you recommend a new board member acquire during their first year?
- What are your best hopes for new members in the first year?
- What are your worst fears for new members in that first year?
- How does your governing team sharpen and improve its work?
- What are the wildly important goals of your governing team?
- What core values are embedded in all the work of your board?
- How does your board focus and get things done effectively?
- What's the hardest thing about being a board member?
- When a passionate citizen/parent/leader comes to you and wants you to do something for them, how do you respond?
- How have you become the best you can be as a member of your governing team?
- When you're long retired from the front line of board leadership, what will you remember most about the effort?
“Great candidate” qualities
- Motivated to improve the quality of education for all children
- Strong advocate for quality education
- Understands that the authority of the board is in its board work, not in any one individual
- Knows the effective role of a board of education
- Team player
- Respects others
- Representative of the diversity of the community
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- Not motivated by a single issue
- Prior school community service
- Sense of humor
- Will support board decisions even when personal perspectives are different
Here's a smorgasbord of questions, all geared to help focus candidates and new members on the serious business of governing well. Most are tweakable for team-building conversations, as well.
- Why are you interested in becoming part of this governance team?
- What does it take for a governance team to be highly effective?
- What team behaviors are crucial for highly effective work?
- What are your best hopes for this governing team?
- What relationships/connections do you have with the school district?
- What has your experience been like as an area volunteer?
- What experience, assets or skills do you have that would benefit the governing team?
- What personal strengths would you bring the governing team?
- How would others describe your personal leadership style?
- What experience do you have with team leadership of any kind?
- How many board meetings have you attended in the last year and what were your observations?
- What type of commitment will you bring to this governing team?
- Which board policies are strong? Which need some review and work?
- What are the most important responsibilities of the board?
- How does a governing team best maximize its time?
- What commitments to effectiveness would you bring to the governing team?
- What insights do you have about real or perceived conflicts of interest that are a normal part of the governing challenge in small communities?
- What is your vision for the future of the school district’s learning efforts?
- What are the primary issues facing the future of the school district?
- What top priorities should consume most of the board’s time this year?
- In your first year on the team, what would you do to learn about great governing for the sake of the kids?
- What are your opinions about
- State/federal mandates for all students proficient and growing in achievement?
- State/federal assessments?
- The financial challenges built into the Colorado constitution?
- The core focus of boards on student success?
- The growing need for school districts to share resources and opportunities with neighboring districts?
- Time/resources/financial pressures on teachers/principals?
- The world our current kindergartners will inhabit at age 25?
Candidate night (concept template)
- Pre-event: Communicate publicly and in multiple fashions to all your key constituents; invite and confirm communication with all candidates; send questions to candidates in advance; circulate an agenda and board process information to all key constituents in advance.
- Welcome table: Refreshments and handouts (a friendly agenda/map of the process, complete with questions; key policies/documents of the school district; handouts/downloads from CASB).
- Intro (5 minutes): Welcome and thanks to everyone; micro overview of the challenges facing rural communities and schools; “with us tonight” intro of candidates; establish the hope/purpose of the night, values/norms (such as respect, valuing differences, listening, and keeping responses brief or no more than X minutes); review the process and questions; consider a friendly reminder “to connect with your candidates beyond tonight.”
- Questions (see section above for more options):
- Tell us about your experiences, passion and skills. What will prove essential to being a member of our board of education?
- What are the greatest challenges facing our board of education over the next decade?
- What strategies or steps do you hope our board of education takes to address the challenges?
- We’re all committed to helping kids keep learning, teachers keep learning, principals keep learning. How do you intend to keep learning about governing with excellence?
- What are your best ideas for engaging the wisdom of constituents, both inside and outside the school walls?
- How will our school district best cope with Colorado’s long-term funding issues?
- How will our school district best adapt to Colorado’s increasing mandates for achievement, accountability and improvement?
- Over the next 20 years, what are your biggest concerns/fears for our local education effort? What are your greatest hopes for those 20 years?
- Why should folks vote for you?
- "School Board Candidate Guide 2017"
- "Veteran Leader to New Leader Guide 2017" [an asset for encouraging and mentoring]
- "Leadership Workbook 2017 [updated after each election, next edition available December 2019]
For a conversation about candidate development, contact Randy Black, 800-530-8430, 303-832-1000.