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January/February 2011

Spring candidate briefings offer look at board service

The question for this issue is answered by Cathy Talbert, IASB associate executive director for field services and policy services.

Question: We have candidates who have filed to run for election in April for open positions on our school board. How should we help them prepare for their possible seats on the board?

Answer: Having well informed candidates is a first step to having well informed school board members. The Illinois Association of School Boards provides services that can help new board members get off to a good start.

First, division dinner meetings this spring will feature briefings for candidates. At the briefings, school board candidates will have the opportunity to:

• Gain an understanding of the roles, responsibilities and obligations of being a board member;

• Learn about IASB, who it is, what it does and the resources it has available; and

• Hear the voice of experience from veteran board members and superintendents.

Candidates also will have an opportunity to ask questions of field services staff and to hear what concerns other candidates might have about board service. The briefings will include distribution of a new pamphlet, which contains a 15-point section on how to approach the job of being a school board member, as well a four-point section on how school board members can make board work more satisfying.

The pamphlet also features a schedule of workshops planned for new board members. The workshops, which will be held at various locations throughout the state, will cover the basics of school governance, law and finance in either one-day or three-day formats.

Division dinner meetings themselves offer all attending an opportunity to learn about education issues, to receive updates on current legislative issues and to network with others around common problems and ideas. They also offer school boards in each division the opportunity to select the leadership for their division, learn about IASB resources and participate in Association governance.

Second, once the elections are over and those elected are ready to be seated as board members, IASB has two free publications that will be of assistance: “Seating New Board Members & Organizing the Board,” available at, and “Orienting New School Board Members on the way to Becoming a High-Performing Board Team,” available at

 The first pamphlet takes a district step-by-step through the actual process of seating the new board members, answering questions about oaths of office, election of officers and recognizing both out-going and in-coming board members.

The second provides a detailed outline for districts to follow to ensure that new board members understand the workings of the district and school board. The outline talks both about document sharing and conversations that the board might want to have as a whole about their work processes and relationships.

The conversations might include “nuts and bolts” issues, such as an orientation to the district and information about public education, and discussion of district identity and board processes — “who we are and how we do things.” These board and superintendent conversations can be self-facilitated or an IASB field services director can be invited to facilitate.

Whether your board expects to have one new member or more, IASB field services directors are ready to help you answer their questions and to provide the services you need to make certain that their tenure on your board will begin as informed school board members. For additional questions and/or information, contact your field services director at 217/528-9688 or 630/629-3776.

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