The board employs the superintendent to be the professional leader of the district’s employees and the board should not undermine that authority. However, a board that fosters a positive, respectful relationship with its superintendent will help build a positive school climate for employees and the students they serve.
In addition, district employees can serve as an army of goodwill ambassadors for the district if the board makes sure it has good relations with staff. When the teachers, administrators and support personnel are well informed about the policies of the board and are proud of the work they are doing, they tell their friends and neighbors and do much to instill a positive public image with respect to their schools and school district.
The school board can do much to promote good will and understanding between the board and district employees. All district personnel, both licensed and classified, should be governed by written policies covering such items as duties, salaries, insurance, absences, leaves, resignations, dismissal and other items applicable to a particular group.
The board should bear in mind that the teacher stands at the focal point in delivering educational services. However, such services cannot be adequately provided without leadership or without the cooperation and assistance of all other personnel. Board policies should ensure that there will be opportunities for the ideas, concerns and expertise of employees to be given due consideration as efforts are made to improve board policies and district services.
The board should provide opportunities for employees to participate in professional growth activities, provide in-service programs as needed and demonstrate interest in the financial and professional security of school employees. The feeling of being appreciated and respected as a worthy partner in the work of the school and community is a reward that any school board can afford to give its employees.
Most boards and superintendents find it necessary to use numerous processes for communication with staff. Board meetings are, of course, open to all employees. It is important that the staff be familiar with the work of the board. Some boards periodically schedule meetings with various staff representatives to gain first-hand knowledge of the workings of various departments. Some superintendents find it helpful to meet periodically with staff and then report to the board. Some boards schedule informal gatherings to get better acquainted with employees. Others meet on occasion with committees representing employees. School districts often use bulletins or periodic newsletters to help keep employees informed of the board’s vision or board action. In many districts, it is common practice for staff committees to be assigned responsibility for studying specific problems and issues.
It is recommended that the board pay attention to the need for establishing appropriate avenues for communicating with administrative personnel as well as licensed and support staff. Generally, board-staff communications are coordinated through the superintendent. In particular, all official communications, policies and directives of staff interest and concern will be communicated to staff members through the superintendent.
School board members are certainly invited to visit schools. Some boards develop a schedule for regular school visits. Individual board members interested in visiting schools and classrooms or in volunteering should make arrangements for visitations through the principals of the various schools with the full knowledge of the superintendent and fellow board members. Such visits should be regarded as informal expressions of interest in school affairs and not as “inspections” or visits for supervisory or administrative purposes. Information gleaned from school visits should be shared with the full board-superintendent team.
Staff and board members share a keen interest in the schools and in education. When they meet at social affairs and other functions, informal discussion on such matters as educational trends, issues and innovations, and general district problems can be anticipated. Board members should recognize times for social communication and collegiality, while respecting the requirement to discuss official business in a formal meeting.