Seven Keys to Effective Charter School Board Meetings

Are your meetings organized and efficient? Do you follow the agenda? Do you get off track and into the weeds? Are your board meetings hours long? Do you feel like you are not talking about what really matters? How do you turn boring, routine meetings into meetings that are successful and productive?

Here are seven tips to help make it happen:

1. Agenda: Timely and balanced

Establish an annual meeting calendar so that you can ensure the agenda focuses on the right things at the right time during the year. A standard meeting agenda is valuable, but you can, and should, reprioritize the meeting order if something is of particular interest during this time. The biggest risk in forming a hastily planned agenda is overlooking critical topics.

Place heavier agenda items with lighter topics. If you know that a topic is going to include a significant amount of controversy or discussion, follow it with something more pleasant. Improve the mood with a short team-building exercise or share some uplifting news.

2. Use a Consent Agenda

A consent agenda is used for addressing routine items, but some of them may require vetting and discussion. The board should have the chance to discuss and review every item on the agenda. The secretary and the board chair should review all agenda items to be sure they are current and each is given the appropriate time for discussion.

Make sure board members get materials for items on the consent agenda ahead of time. Allow members to pull an item out of the consent agenda if they wish to discuss it.

3. Provide Adequate Time for Preparation

The administrator or board president should provide materials to the board members early so that the board members can have adequate time to prepare for the meeting. Distributing materials right before the board meeting is not appropriate if you want members to come prepared to discuss, deliberate and decide on critical items of business. In fact, I have seen board members leave their boards due to not having adequate time to consider proposed resolutions.

Boards do their best work when they’ve had time to mentally and emotionally prepare for whatever the agenda holds. In order to keep dedicated board members engaged, give them time to review materials and prepare for upcoming meetings.

4. Use Technology to Enhance Efficiency

An effective board management software can reduce hours of work in communication and distribution. Find a board management software that serves your needs and engage in an ongoing board management process that provides ease in communication.

Board management systems help to increase communications, and an informed board member will be stronger advocate and more easily engaged. Information is vital to board effectiveness and communication of that information is critical to productive board meetings.

5. Be Forward Thinking: Plan Strategically

It’s a great morale booster to call the board members’ attention to past successes, but repeating past work won’t necessarily move the organization forward. Get the members thinking outside of the box and into the future with strategic planning sessions. Have a planning session. Do some brainstorming with the board to try to forecast how today’s decisions will affect tomorrow’s organization. Create “what if” and “if then” scenarios. Let board members know that all ideas will be entertained.

6. Make a Connection: It’s personal

Board members can often be removed from how their decisions affect employees, their families, or other organizations that are related to the board’s work. Give the board a break from their hard work and allow them see the fruits of their labor by showing them decisions in action. Take a field trip to tour a facility and talk with students, parents, and staff. Show a slide show of how their decisions have helped families and students individually. It could be something as simple as sharing a 10-minute personal story. Consider inviting board members to personally volunteer at an upcoming fundraiser or event. Helping board members draw a closer connection to their work just might recharge and motivate the most frustrated board member.

7. Board Engagement

A board meeting where there is controversy and disagreement among members isn’t fun for anyone. Try to remember that a diversified board with differing perspectives is planned by design, in order to take advantage of a wide variety of perspectives. The culmination of those perspectives is what drives important work forward. Step back and separate your own perspective by re-framing it against the bigger picture. Take responsibility for assuring that everyone sitting around the table has the opportunity to speak and be heard.

Engaging a board means that you are attracting someone’s attention and encouraging them to participate. Once the board chair or meeting facilitator assures that board member engagement is a priority, board members become motivated. Motivated members are what makes your board meetings successful.

 

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