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The Alabama Association of School Boards is often adjusting to meet the changing and expanding needs of school boards in the modern-day world. The Board Business Blog features answers for and expert thought about the common questions today's school boards may have.

Chairman's Gavel: Training requirements of Governance Act unveiled

Public Relations - Wednesday, January 16, 2013

By Susan Salter | AASB Director of Leadership Development

 

Now that the state Department of Education has unveiled the training requirements of the School Board Governance Improvement Act, board presidents can play a significant role in helping members understand what’s expected of them. Here’s a list of next steps:

  • Educate your members and community on the training requirements. AASB offered a free webinar on the Governance Act Jan. 16 and will make it available to local boards on DVD shortly. Later this month, AASB also will mail a PowerPoint and script that you can use at a board meeting to help members, the local media and the community understand the new expectations.

  • Keep your members apprised of upcoming training opportunities. As noted below, all board members must earn at least 3 hours of training by June 30. Members can earn those hours through AASB in a variety of ways, many of which will involve little or no travel via:
    • 1-hour district meetings going on statewide through Feb. 11
    • 2-hour workshop on state Superintendent Tommy Bice’s Plan 2020 on March 15;
    • 6-hour school finance conference March 15-16;
    • 8-hour roles and responsibilities orientation for new members April 2 (repeated on June 20);
    • 1.5-hour webinar on working with booster clubs April 18;
    • 3-hour North regional training on school law April 25;
    • 1.5-hour webinar on the Students First Act May 2;
    • 6-hour effective boards orientation for new members June 21; and
    • 8-hour summer conference June 21-23.

AASB also anticipates that state Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice will amend regulations in his earlier memo to allow board members who attend NSBA’s annual conference or its Southern Region conference to receive up to 2 hours of credit.

Note that, beginning July 1, members will be required to earn 6 hours of training annually. AASB will provide regular updates on the training options available as well as reports twice a year to show each member how many hours he/she has earned toward that year’s requirement.

  • Ensure your board adopts a Code of Conduct by the April 1 deadline. Yourcode of conduct must, at a minimum, include the state’s model code, which the state Board of Education approved in December. The model includes 30 directives in three categories: conduct of individual members, conduct of the board as a whole and conduct of individuals at meetings. It is a comprehensive document and addresses issues such as:
    • Doing homework before meetings;
    • Realizing board members only have authority when they sit as a board, not as individuals;
    • Treating other members, staff and superintendent with respect and courtesy;
    • Informing the board and superintendent of your conflicts of interest;
    • Refraining from involvement on issues regarding family members, particularly hiring issues;
    • Working together respectfully, even when members disagree;
    • Marking personnel decisions in a timely manner;
    • Supporting the majority decision of the board;
    • Respecting the superintendent’s role and authority; and
    • Working with the superintendent to develop the vision and goals for the system.

As board president, you can facilitate the adoption of the local code of conduct by ensuring that board members understand what is already provided in the state’s model as well as by ensuring the board carefully considers whether it is necessary to add more items.

  • Lead your board to review its policy on board training in light of the Governance Act requirements. State law requires each school board to have a policy on board training. Now is the time to review yours in light of the act to determine what changes, if any, are needed. It may also be helpful to incorporate that act’s training requirements into the new version.
  • Work with your board and superintendent to plan the whole-board training sessions that will be required starting in July. As noted, beginning in July, all board members must receive 6 hours of training annually. Two of those hours each year must be “whole board, interactive training.” This is defined as training:
    • Attended by the majority of board members;
    • Uses a facilitator who interacts directly with the board members (thus, whole board participation in a large conference or webinar generally will not qualify); and
    • In which members discuss an issue or issues specifically as they pertain to their school system.
Obviously, whole board training should be scheduled at a time when every member can participate. But it would also be helpful for the board to thoughtfully consider what type of training would most benefit the group as a whole. Consider having AASB lead the board in a self-evaluation in order to identify areas the members feel the board needs to improve on before actually choosing the training topic.

Topics for whole-board training are not limited and could include sessions such as training on how to use data, the role of the board, how to align resources based on goals or how to evaluate the superintendent. A board self-evaluation also would qualify. In addition, AASB is exploring the possibility that boards could receive credit for engaging in ongoing, multi-part work such as a strategic planning process, even though that is not technically training.

  • Lead your board to consider developing an annual board training plan. The Governance Act allows board members to choose the training they will receive and, with the exception of the whole-board training, members can individually choose the training they want. However, research has shown that school boards that study and learn together tend to have a greater impact on the quality of their school systems. Thus, through a self-evaluation or other discussion, your members may find it useful to coordinate which training sessions they will attend.

Trainer options under the Governance Act

Training provided by AASB will count toward the requirements unless specifically noted otherwise. Training by others – such as your school board attorney or outside consultants – must be approved in advance in order for members to receive credit under the Governance Act.

AASB will oversee the external-training approval process and expects to have applications and guidelines available online by Feb. 1. While details are still being fleshed out, the guidelines likely will require prospective trainers to submit a course description, training goals and objectives, a list of activities to be included and information about their qualifications for teaching the material at least 60 days before the training. A committee comprised of representatives of AASB, School Superintendents of Alabama and the state Department of Education will review the applications and notify providers if their proposal is approved within 30 days.

Originally published in January 2013.
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