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Does Board Behavior Matter?

Can an effective Board improve district performance?

School Boards are the highest decision-making body in a school district. Therefore, it seems to follow that Boards set an example by their deeds and their behavior for the entire district - administrators, teachers, all staff, students, parents, the community and stakeholders.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) and PA School Boards Association (PSBA) have done research on this topic and both have confirmed that School Board behavior does have an effect on school district performance. They have each developed a set of characteristics of effective Boards based on this research.

NSBA's 8 Characteristics of Effective Boards can be found here. #7 is

  • Effective school boards lead as a united team with the superintendent, each from their respective roles, with strong collaboration and mutual trust.

PSBA's 7 Principles for Governance and Leadership can be found here. The descriptions of the "Lead Responsibly",,"Govern Effectively", "Communicate Clearly" and "Act Ethically" principles include

  • Working together in a spirit of harmony, respect and cooperation, and 
  • Differentiate between governance and management, delegating management tasks to administration.  
  • Promote open, honest and respectful dialogue among the board, staff and community
  • Abide by the majority decision

Unfortunately, our School Board has a history of less than stellar behavior, especially in the areas I've highlighted above. In fact, "dysfunctional" is a word that is often used to describe our Board. It's really quite embarrassing. I ran for School Board in 2009 because I believe that effective teams can find innovative solutions to seemingly impossible problems and I wanted to bring those effective team behaviors to the Board. I believe this because I've done research on effective teams and I've seen the amazing results of effective teams many times in my career. I think I have made a difference on the Board, at least in some small way, through the behavioral example I set and by organizing some training and team-building sessions for the Board. When evaluating a Board member candidate, I care much less about their viewpoints than their behavior. I sincerely believe that a Board SHOULD be made of up of people with diverse viewpoints; what we should all have in common is a commitment to exhibit good leadership and collaboration behaviors.

If we have an effective Board, we can spend time on key priority issues instead of bickering and micromanaging. We all play a part in ensuring that our School Board is an effective Board - through our votes. Tuesday is primary day and it is imperative that anyone who believes in effective teams, expresses that belief with their vote. I'll share my opinions in this regard below.

Region 1: Please vote Rod Boyer and Melody McWherter. Melody is running unopposed for the 2-year seat and Rod is running against Christine Neiman for the 4-year seat. I've known Melody for many years and am confident that she will hold herself to the highest behavioral standard. And we've all had the opportunity to observe the Board behavior of Rod and Christine and it is quite obvious that they are worlds apart in this respect. Rod is the pillar of respectful behavior. Enough said.

Region 2: Please vote for Lisa Hogan and Heather Stehman. I've had the opportunity to get to know these smart women and I know they will serve in the Board Director role in accordance with the Effective Board practices, including respectful and collaborative behavior.

Region 3: Please vote for Bryan Lees and Brian Hemingway. Brian and Bryan are intelligent gentlemen offering to serve our community in accordance with effective Board practices. Their opponent ran for this office 2 years ago and exhibited very poor campaign behaviors, making him, I believe, a poor candidate for this important office.

We are fortunate to have such a wonderful slate of candidates - all of them smart, some of them parents to young children in our district and all of them dedicated to the education of current and future generations of Boyertown Area School District students.

Please share your thoughts about School Board behavior and VOTE ON TUESDAY, May 21st!

If you haven't voted before or for a while, don't worry... the pollworkers welcome new voters and are there to be helpful.

Originally authored by Donna Usavage on May 2017, updated April 2019

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