President’s Perspective: School boards as strategic assets

Kevin Ciak

So many of the sights, sounds, and traditions of a new school year bring me back to my own days as a public school student. Even after 23 years on my local school board, a new school year still energizes and fills me with hope and promise. School districts revitalize with the coming of first-year teachers, high school freshmen—and our kindergartners, the Class of 2030—embarking on their educational journey. And of course, there are the traditions to look forward to, like the high school football games played under the stadium lights, homecoming on a crisp autumn evening, marching band and cheerleading competitions, PTA bake sales, and autumn parades.

Public schools must focus on preparing our students for their future and not for our past, which is why innovation, the theme of this issue of American School Board Journal, is so important for public school leaders today.

I was recently asked about my vision for school boards in America. My vision is simple: Every school board will be viewed by its communities, educators, and students as a strategic asset in preparing the citizens and workforce of tomorrow.

Achieving that vision is all about innovation and continuously assessing the needs of the citizenry and workforce of tomorrow within the context of the programs offered. School boards across the country will need to innovate and offer more programs to serve our diverse population of students.

Board member professional development offered through state school boards association conferences that brings new innovative practices, products, and services all in one location can be a great asset. I continue to find New Jersey’s annual conference—or Workshop, as we call it—to be a great resource for innovation and promising practices.

So many of our graduates will be taking jobs outside the borders of their home state or even the U.S. It’s paramount that school board members view innovation through the eyes of other districts within their own state, and that their perspective be much broader. At NSBA’s Annual Conference, attendees can hear from nationally recognized speakers, and be exposed to innovative programs that are offered in schools and classrooms in states across the nation.

Every school board can be viewed by its communities, educators, and students as a strategic asset in preparing the workforce and citizens of tomorrow.

Identifying innovative practices is a good starting point; however, strategic asset boards also implement them. When was the last time your board solicited requests for proposals for your health insurance broker, auditor, or attorney? Has your board assessed whether it can offer better special education programs within the district and reduce costs associated with out-of-district placements? Have you asked your superintendent to assess your information technology support costs for efficiencies? New and innovative initiatives could be valuable opportunities for both enhancing student learning and reducing costs in your school district.

Want to begin this conversation in your school district? Ask your board president to place an item on the next school board agenda, and ask that the meeting begin with an update from your superintendent on innovations planned for this school year 2017-18. A strategic asset school board will ensure that the conversation becomes a step toward greater and enhanced district and school innovation.

Miranda BeardKevin Ciak (​) is NSBA’s 2017-18 president and a member of New Jersey’s Sayreville School Board. Follow Ciak on Twitter @Kevin_NSBA.

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