As part of their Governance U program, the California School Boards Association (CSBA) has created a five-course professional development series aimed at “equip[ping] board members and superintendents with the knowledge and skills to build and support an effective governance structure.”

Yesterday was Course One for me, and it featured two presentations entitled Foundations of Effective Governance and Setting Direction. Here are my key takeaways from each session:

Foundations of Effective Governance:

A good portion of the morning session was a repeat from my primer at last December’s Annual Education Conference. However, three quotes stood out as particularly powerful:

The first dealt with a topic very near and dear to all Americans, the concept of Government of the people. It’s a quote attributed to Henry M. Brickell and Regina H. Paul, from their book Time for Curriculum: How School Board Members Should Think About Curriculum, What School Board Members Should Do About Curriculum (which of course, I had to order). It states:

The most remarkable thing about our country is this: ordinary citizens control almost every major institution, public and private…Does this make sense? What it makes is a democracy. We, the people, govern ourselves.

The second quote came from Lillian Katz, an international leader in early childhood education:

Each of us must come to care about everyone else’s children…The good life for our own children can be secured only if a good life is also secured for all other people’s children.

The third quote is by Margaret Mead, a famed American cultural anthropologist who has become famous for these words:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Taken together, these three quotes create the following meaning for me as a Romoland School Board member:

School boards are important. They’re a microcosm for everything we love about living in a free nation. We truly have the power to shape our own future.

School board governance matters. The issues we care about matter. Social justice matters. Only by existing outside the comfort of our own existence can we truly secure the “good life” for the least of us—thus securing the good life for all of us.

When we understand what’s at stake, and we realize how powerful a community can be—especially a small community like Romoland—we can make a positive change that reaches far beyond our collective imaginations.

Setting Direction:

The afternoon session picked up where the morning left off, attempting to answer the questions Where are we going? How do we get there? and Are we there yet?

The session was incredibly introspective, and it featured an activity that turned out to be quite amusing. All of the board members in attendance were asked to stand in different areas of the room based on the decade they graduated in (1970-1979, 1980-1989, etc.). As you might have guessed, I was the only one in the room standing in the 2000-2009 decade (and really, there were only a handful of members standing in the 1990-1999 group). Each decade had a poster, and we wrote the major political, economic, social/entertainment, and technology events of our decades, as well as a statement that encapsulated the general lens of that particular generation—that is, how the events of that generation affected that generation’s outlook on life.

The share-outs from each decade turned out to be pretty hilarious time capsules, but before any of us could feel too proud about our seasoned life experience (or in my case, my youthful cultural relevance), we were shown the following video, familiar to those of us in education circles—but none the less powerful:

No matter how many times I’ve seen that video—and they do a good job of regularly updating it with current statistics—I am blown away as I attempt to wrap my mind around the world we are preparing our children for. It is a great reminder of our need to always be forward-thinking leaders as opposed to reactionary followers. I hope, by the end of my tenure as Romoland School Board member, I can prove myself to be a member of the former group.

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