First stop on my San Francisco tour was the California School Boards Association (CSBA) Orientation for New Trustees. Today’s orientation was titled Preparation for the First 100 Days, and covered a variety of key topics essential for new board members like myself. There were introductions to CSBA’s executive team, and then presentations that ranged from effective governance to financial and legal responsibilities, the Brown Act, and collective bargaining.

Takeaways from Day One include:

The five responsibilities of school boards:

  1. Set the direction
  2. Establish the structure
  3. Create a supportive environment
  4. Ensure accountability
  5. Demonstrate community leadership throughout

Legal responsibilities and limitations (presented by representatives from the Kronick Moskovitz Tiedemann & Girard law firm)

  • The only power as a governing board member is to act as part of the board as a whole, no individual power to act on behalf of district.
  • Board members do not supervise a district’s employees, just the superintendent.
  • Confidential information cannot be leaked.
  • Board members may not engage in political activities at schools or at board meetings.
  • There is a limitation on gifts, and they must be reported.
  • If a board member moves outside the jurisdiction of their district then they are immediately removed from the board by law.
  • A board member’s spouse cannot be hired by the district while the board member is serving.

The Brown Act

  • This is the law that requires all meetings of public bodies to be “open and public.”
  • It also protects the public from collusion or secret meetings.
  • This is a very important law for board members, and it’s worthy of further explanation. I will be writing more about the scope of the Brown Act in a future post.

The importance of attitude in collective bargaining

  • RSD employs the Interest-Based Bargaining technique (also called Win-Win Bargaining). A good primer on the technique can be found here.

Our packets also included a report published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute—one which I highlighted throughout my campaign— titled Does School Board Leadership Matter? If you’d like to read the paper for yourself, you can access the PDF for free here.

All in all, today was a great start to what’s sure to be a worthwhile and informative conference.

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