“Now what?” was the charge asked of each of us at the close of NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Conference in September. This short question, just two words and a question mark, can give pause to both new and veteran school board members.
As a board member serving a student population, the majority of whom are struggling, underperforming or linguistically challenged, the “Now what?” question really stuck with me. On my flight home after the conference, and for days afterwards, the question replayed in my mind, “Now what?”
That September week began with NSBA’s Equity Symposium West, a forum for school leaders that focused on digital equity, and concluded with the CUBE Annual conference, an educational opportunity for urban school board leaders. And while my local school district is not identified as urban, my students are certainly urban school children.
Both conferences provided an ample number of sessions that provided a wealth of information. I was motivated by the keynote speakers and had the opportunity to participate in top-notch clinics on individualized learning for students, social-emotional learning, project-based learning, mental health services, attacking the summer learning gap, school safety, and more.
Now that we’ve had this learning and networking opportunity, and have returned to our communities and our boards, now what? How do we go about sharing what we’ve learned? And how do we implement the best practices? Best practices that we know could do wonders in our own districts. How do we, as board members, take the ball and run with it and do right by our students and school community?
It can be overwhelming, indeed.
Imagine this: What if we were to focus our efforts on one thing, kind of like using a magnifying lens or shining a spotlight. And, for the time being, we could hold off on the other 19 great ideas that we are also anxious to set in motion. Then, when that one thing is accomplished, we can check it off our list and move to the next one.
We all must start somewhere. You might begin with your board: establishing their own definition of educational equity, bringing restorative justice to your district, examining your school safety policy, or implementing an implicit bias training.
After a conference or other learning and networking opportunity, present what you’ve learned to your board. And then, based on your board’s decision, work to see that change through all the way into your district’s schools and classrooms.
As for me and my district, I will be working on how we can attack the summer learning gap, which is a big problem in Santa Rosa, California.
The benefits of school leaders coming together for conferences and forums, focused on learning and sharing ideas, cannot be overstated. After all, we have a common goal — to advance public education through school board governance — and we can learn and accomplish much together. But the rubber really hits the road when we return back home, ask ourselves the question of “what now?” and then get busy.