School Board Leadership Challenging Times Require New Skills

educational equity consultants – School Board Retreat – March 18-19, 2011 – mercy center – st. louis, missouri – Registration – 314-997-6500

With the adoption of No Child Left Behind in 2001, School Boards have been faced with the challenge of creating learning environments that will eliminate the achievement gap. To achieve this goal schools have struggled with assessing past practices and policies that either support or inhibit the learning success of all students.

Thus, schools administrators, teachers and Board members have sought ways to refine their individual as well as collective efforts for systemic change. Change of this magnitude requires both pressure and support from leaders. An organization that changes must change beliefs as well as practices. An organization that changes practices without changing beliefs will quickly revert to the old practices. Change demands a willingness to grapple with ambiguity, tension and self-examination.

Educational Equity Consultants have developed and facilitated School Board Retreats for several school systems in the St.Louis area who are actively seeking systemic change. The focus of these retreats has been to assist School Board members in both a personal and professional examination of changes that will lead to a social justice advocacy for leading schools. We define social justice advocacy as a critical consciousness to ensure that ALL learners have access to high quality instruction in a positive learning environment and class, race, gender, and ethnicity is no longer a predictor of educational outcome. During the retreat participants examine both individual and institutional practices and behaviors, both conscious and unconscious, which lead to oppression based on race. Activities include fishbowl and racial caucus formats. Three anti-oppression constructs – the cycle of socialization, fabric of oppression, and the table of oppression – are engaged through mini-lectures and experiential activity with a mixed race team of facilitators.

Finally, School Board Leadership in these challenging times requires a new set of skills which will serve to engage constituents in the creation of instructional equity in an inclusive learning environment. Thus participants of the retreat also examine the National School Board Association’s six principal agreements for effective board membership, which include:

  • the commitment to work together in pursuit of the school mission.
  • to understand the responsibilities and limitation for governing a school system.
  • to establish goals and priorities of the organization.
  • to adopt and agree upon ground rules, shared commitments and operating principles.
  • to clarify and support expectations of the superintendent.
  • to handle and respond appropriately to inquiries, requests and complaints from staff and public

Each of these agreements is examined through a “lens” of social justice advocacy. Participants working collectively seek to examine the issues, questions, or concerns regarding race and racism that may be of significance in these agreements. Retreat outcomes thus include a reflection upon individual stance as a school board leader and strategies to assure the efficacy of district policies to eliminate the achievement gap.