Advocacy Angle: Welcome Aboard!
Take a Trip through the Resolution Process
By Mary Ellen BuchWelcome to your new role as a school board member. As I am sure you have already ascer-tained, this new role only begins with your election; the best is yet to come. As you traverse your first few months, you may wonder whether to jump in headfirst or whether you should just sit back and watch.
You cannot change something if you don’t take that first step. As Mahatma Gandhi stated, “be the change you want to see in the world.”
You likely still remember a section of the school board member Oath of Office that states, “I shall serve as education’s key advocate on behalf of students and our community’s school to advance the vision for our school district.” According to IASB’s Foundational Principles of Effective Governance, each school board sits in trust for its entire community. The obligation to govern ef-fectively imposes fundamental duties on the board and one of them is that the board connects with the community. By engaging in conversations with the local community, the board under-stands what is most important and can serve as an advocate for district improvement.
Note that advocacy is a key element in both the Oath of Office and the Foundational Principles.
What exactly is advocacy? We are so glad you asked. Many definitions of the word exist; how-ever, going back to the Latin root may be the best place to start. ‘Advocate’ (to add a voice) means to plead a case or a cause, to argue that something needs to be changed or improved. As a school board member, you can use your voice to change something that needs to be im-proved by giving a voice to your community, your school district, and most importantly, your students. IASB has a process in place where you, along with your full school board, can submit resolutions to make changes through the Resolutions Process.
The Resolutions Process takes place each year with the same general schedule and leads up to the annual Delegate Assembly, where member boards of education vote on the proposed reso-lutions. The adopted resolutions become Position Statements which provide direction for advo-cacy and carry the weight of the delegates behind them to direct and inform association legis-lative priorities. It is the desire of the IASB Board of Directors to focus advocacy on a limited number of issues that are the most impactful to the membership and which unite the member-ship, and that position the Association for legislative success.
Each April, IASB begins its “Call for Resolutions.” The resolutions submission form and instruc-tions are sent to each school board member and superintendent. The form is completely elec-tronic and easy to fill out. Along with specifics of the submitted resolution, members should consider how wide of an impact the proposed resolution has and which core value it applies to.
Per the IASB Constitution, the deadline to submit a resolution is June 21 (150 days prior to Del-egate Assembly). Once all resolution proposals are received, the IASB Government Relations staff compiles them and prepares analyses for the Resolutions Committee.
On the first Friday in August, the Resolutions Committee, made up of a representative from each IASB division, meets to discuss the resolutions. Submitting districts may testify at this meeting and answer committee questions. Per the IASB Constitution, the committee then has three options. It can recommend “do adopt,” “do not adopt,” or “do not present.” A “do adopt” recommendation goes to the Delegate Assembly floor for a vote. In the case of a “do not adopt” recommendation, the appeals process begins, and the submitting member may appeal to the Resolutions Committee. The Committee can also exercise its prerogative to determine that a proposal will not be presented to the Delegate Assembly for consideration with a “do not present” motion. In this scenario, the resolution would not move forward in the process and would not be subject to the appeals process.
After the August meeting, the Resolutions Committee Report document is created and sent electronically to members. This document lists all the resolutions submitted and the school dis-trict’s analysis, as well as the Resolutions Committee analysis and its recommendation for each submission. School boards should review the document at their September and October board meetings to discuss how the board of education will vote on each resolution. At this time, the board should also determine which board member will represent the district at the Delegate Assembly (held in November) to vote on the resolutions.
On the Friday of the Joint Annual Conference, the Resolutions Committee meets to discuss any appeals and prepare for the Delegate Assembly, which takes place the next morning.
At the Delegate Assembly, only registered, credentialed delegates sit in the voting section of the room. Credentials are handed out to registered delegates before the assembly and include a dated delegate pin and a brightly colored card with their school district name on it. Along with voting on the resolutions, this meeting also includes the annual business meeting and the election of IASB officers.
After the Delegate Assembly, IASB mails the updated Constitution and Position Statements booklet to all board members. In addition, the IASB Governmental Relations team begins plan-ning for the upcoming legislative session and sets legislative priorities using the updated Position statements.
By participating in the Resolutions Process, you, as a part of your full school board, can advo-cate for your local school district as well as districts across the state.
Advocacy involves using your voice to plead the case or argue for something that needs to change. One person, one district, one association cannot do it alone. Combining our voices for the good of all takes each one of us doing our part and together, we can affect change. Theo-dore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” And if you need a little more encouragement to jump on in, we can always turn to Dr. Seuss, The Lorax who stated, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Mary Ellen Buch is Director of Governmental Relations for the Illinois Association of School Boards. Resources associated with this article, including the IASB Advocacy Core Values, are available at iasb.com/Journal.