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Banks advocates leading with passion

Competing in the Ironman Triathlon takes extraordinary endurance, but according to athlete and former physical education teacher Murray Banks, being a school board member requires even more.

Banks put the crowning touch on the 2004 IASB/IASA/IASBO Joint Annual Conference with a laughter-filled presentation of "Lighting the Way to Excellence: Leading with Passion and Style," providing tips on how board members can hold up under increasing pressures to which they subject themselves voluntarily.

Also at the closing session, Jane Wojtkiewicz of East Maine School District 63 in Des Plaines received the Thomas Lay Burroughs Outstanding School Board President Award from the Illinois State Board of Education. The Illinois Association of School Administrators named Frances Karanovich of Macomb Community Unit School District 185 as Superintendent of the Year.

Hands shot up all over the ballroom when Banks asked, "when you think about why you chose to be a school board member, how many of you now wonder, 'What was I thinking?'"

That's the same question Banks may have asked himself part-way through the Ironman competition in Hawaii, where he said he kept willing himself to complete "just one more mile" in a 26.2-mile footrace after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles. While he questioned why he kept on, he realizes it was because of his passion to compete with a very elite group of athletes. That passion is the same as what he hopes school board members and administrators can find for their important job of educating young people.

"Who you are may be as important as what you know," Banks said, adding, "style is everything." Board members should not let the stress of their volunteer job change the way they deal with their career, their family or the volunteer job itself. They should avoid the tendency to become sarcastic by doing things like listening to their voice mail greeting and avoiding terse e-mail messages.

Board members also can adopt what Banks terms a "lava lamp" philosophy: always keep moving. "People get comfortable with the rhythm of a job," he said and tend not to see how things may be evolving and changing. By grafting the best of new thinking onto the best of tried and true practices, boards can take leadership to new levels.

"Your outlook," Banks said, "affects everything that you do." So staying positive and maintaining a "can-do" attitude is essential. His philosophy has always been: "We can do this. We just need to figure out how." By having a vision, setting goals and focusing on where you want to be, "you have a better chance of getting there."

Another important tactic is to resist falling in with the CAVE dwellers: those people who are "consistently against virtually everything." To do that, Banks advocates using the 10/90 Rule: devote 10 percent of your time to the problem and 90 percent of your time to finding a solution.

Finally, Banks admonished board members to exercise, eat smart and maintain a good balance with family, friends and other interests besides board work, because "your life comes to meetings with you and leaks out." By maintaining a good balance in life, it's easier to stay energetic, passionate and optimistic about board work and children.



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