A school board meeting that has no direction can be unproductive and unnecessarily time-consuming – especially when the meeting is after hours for your “volunteer” job. Here are six simple yet effective tips to help you hold efficient school board meetings now and into the coming year.
1. Always have an agenda
Your board members are volunteering their time, and that time should be valued. Preparing an agenda (and sticking to it) is crucial for an efficient board meeting.
You should match the length of the agenda to the length of the meeting. Don’t overload or underload the agenda. With virtual meetings, you might consider just discussing a few pointed agenda items as online meetings typically require repetition and clarification. The agenda should be focused on topics that support your organization’s strategic goals.
Preparing an agenda is crucial for an efficient board meeting.
2. Try to stick to a start and end time
Your agenda has a start time. Stick to it. Most of your board members have “real” jobs and busy lives, which sometimes means they’ll run late. Don’t feel as if you have to wait for everyone to log in before starting the meeting. If you continuously push back your meeting start time, you’ll encourage board members to arrive later and later.
When you start every meeting on time, you convey the importance of punctuality. You also show board members and guests that you value their time.
Likewise, meetings that drag on too long can demoralize and frustrate board members. If you’re not able to meet all of the agreed-upon agenda items within the allotted time, try to schedule another short meeting at a future date in order to address those concerns. Besides, giving board members more time to think about issues at hand may provide more creative solutions to arise.
3. Send materials in advance
Make sure you send out any materials at least one week ahead of the meeting. Items such as the agenda, minutes from previous meetings, financial statements, school reports, and any other documents can be sent to board members prior to the meeting.
Good board members know their responsibilities and will read what you send them. Assume board members did their homework and reviewed the updates. This will make the meeting more productive by allowing more time for strategic discussions.
Additionally, have your board members agree on agenda items ahead of time so that all relevant concerns are addressed. It also provides an opportunity to remove items that can be quickly resolved outside of the meeting.
4. Focus on strategic discussion but also allow for personal time
We’re all busy. Your board members are no different. Wasting time with a board meeting that doesn’t provide value frustrates your board members. The last thing you want your board members thinking is “I wish I were anywhere but here right now.” It does nothing to help move your school district forward.
Your board’s job is to help move your mission forward through governance and strategy. Make your board meetings about strategic discussions and decisions. Non-controversial or routine items can easily be reviewed via email prior to the meeting.
With today’s changing times, allow for some personal time during your board calls. Taking time to recognize how everyone is navigating through the changing times, will provide your board with support and help build community.
Here are a few suggestions that can go a long way with your new board:
- Ask them how they think the school district is handling the “new normal”
- What challenges are they facing within the school district?
- How have the changing times impacted their family?
Allowing personal time can go a long way with your board.
5. Prepare any proposals well in advance
When you have a new proposal for the board, be sure to prepare in advance. For example, if you’re working to convince your board that it’s time for new technology for your school district, consider these tips:
Recruit a few supporters
Before you make the ask to the entire board, it helps to have a few supporters in your corner. Introduce the idea of new technology to individual board members first. If more than one person recommends the investment, the rest of your board will be more likely to be convinced. Especially since the recommendation will be from a peer that they know and trust.
Recruiting board members ahead of the meeting will prepare you for any questions other board members might have. You will know ahead of time any specific information and questions to include in your pitch to the board.
Make the pitch
The main event of convincing your board will be your pitch. Make sure it’s persuasive. Your board members joined the board to help your organization further your mission, and if this is a step they need to take, they will. The case just needs to be compelling.
Be sure to include the following in your pitch:
- Explain the problem with the current technology
- Highlight the benefits and ROI of a new solution
- Outline the costs and timeline of a new solution
- Show examples of what your new solution could look like
Need help putting together your presentation for new technology? Ask your county administrators for help, such as a prepared PowerPoint presentation. Administrators should be able to provide you with best practices and examples of what your new solution can look like.
When you’re asking your board for funding for a new project, your board will have questions.
You invested time in recruiting advocates and developing a persuasive pitch, now it’s time to think like a board member. If you were a fellow board member, what questions would you have after listening to your presentation? What questions did your recruited supporters ask? The more prepared you are with data, the more likely you will gain approval.
6. Offer vision and inspiration
Your board members are there because they believe in the success of your school district. Try to book-end your meetings with mission, vision, and inspiration to keep the board connected with your school district’s achievements.
You can incorporate your mission through small things. For example, display your mission and vision statement on your opening slide. You could also ask a new member to give a testimonial about why they joined. Or ask a student representative to relay how changes have affected their peers.
Just make sure your board members leave inspired and deeply connected with your vision. Don’t let them leave a meeting focused on how much you’re going to spend on post-it notes this year.
Your board meetings can be one of your greatest assets or one of your biggest headaches. Start planning now, and use these virtual tips to have successful school board meetings.