School Board Service: Orientation Model
One of the Foundational Principles of Effective Governance
is that "the school board takes responsibility for itself," meaning its own
procedures, activities and behaviors. An essential part of any board's activities should
be the orientation and training of newly-elected members.
Following is a comprehensive list of areas that might be
covered during the orientation of new school board members. Each school board should
review this list to determine what is applicable locally and take action to ensure that
new members are adequately prepared to take their seats at the board table.
Orientation to the Board: These items are
generally the school board's areas of expertise and, therefore, should be the board's
responsibility in the orientation process. Often, the board president will take the lead
for this part of the orientation process with the assistance of the superintendent and
other members of the board.
- A personal copy of the written board policy manual and explanation of its use,
development, review, etc., including the following:
- A copy and explanation of the district's mission, vision, values and beliefs, and/or
- A copy and explanation of the district's latest short- and long-range goals, along with
related needs assessment results.
- An explanation of school board organization (officers, standing and ad hoc committees,
if any, etc.)
- An explanation of any policies governing board member conduct and activities (i.e.,
Board Code of Conduct, travel expenses, conflict of interest, professional development,
- An explanation of how board meetings are conducted, including parliamentary procedures
used, Open Meetings Act requirements, placing items on the agenda, superintendent's
informational packets, etc.
- A discussion about the board's speaking with one voice, the authority of the board vs.
the authority of any individual board member, the chain of command, etc.
- An explanation of board processes: gathering community input, monitoring district
progress, self-evaluation, communication with the media, etc.
- A historical perspective of the board's current work, including minutes from the past
year's board meetings (perhaps synopsized);
- An explanation of the superintendent's informational packets.
- An explanation and list of board and board member development opportunities available
throughout the year including IASB's New Board Member Workshops and the Joint Annual
Orientation to Board/Superintendent Roles and
Relationship: These items are generally shared areas of expertise between the
board and superintendent, and, therefore, should be a joint responsibility in the
- Clarification of roles and responsibilities including discussion about "Who
decides" particular types of issues.
- Explanation of how authority is delegated to the superintendent.
- Explanation of the administrative procedures manual.
- A copy of the superintendent's job description and performance-based contract and
discussion of how it evolved.
- A copy of any superintendent evaluation materials and discussion of how and when they
- An explanation of how communication flows between board members and superintendent and
how to use the chain of command.
- A review of written board policies governing the Board/Superintendent Relationship.
Orientation to the District: These items
are generally the superintendent's areas of expertise and responsibility in the
- A copy of the district's budget. Explanation of how, when and by whom it is prepared;
how the district's mission and goals are translated into a dollars-and cents plan; where
the money comes from, where it goes and how it is spent.
- An explanation of financial accountability processes: how funds are accounted for; how
expenditures are authorized; what financial reports are provided and how to interpret
- An explanation of the state's financial plan and what it means in terms of local
- An explanation of any PTELL and/or TIF zone considerations on district finances.
- Data on district per pupil cost and expenditures.
- An explanation of the assessed valuation and tax structure of the district.
- An explanation of the funding process for the school district.
- A description of the district's student enrollment trends and projections.
- Data on the existing bond indebtedness of the district and when various building debts
- Information on federal and state aid to your district's education program.
School District Facilities and Transportation
- A list showing the number, location, and condition of schools and other building owned
operated by the district.
- An explanation of construction projects contemplated and in process.
- A description of the district's building maintenance program.
- An explanation of the student transportation system - the number, condition and
maintenance program of district-owned vehicles and/or the contract for transportation
- A description of the geographic boundaries and attendance zones of the school district.
School Curriculum and Instruction
- An explanation of curriculum standards required by state law and implemented by the
State Board of Education.
- Copies of recent state report cards.
- Copies of recent state and/or accrediting agency evaluations.
- An explanation of the district's overall curriculum program.
- An explanation of local school improvement initiatives (what, why, who, how, etc.)
- An explanation of the educational organization of the district, including student
groupings, departmentalization, team-teaching, shared pupils/teachers, etc.
- An explanation of how elementary and secondary curricula is coordinated.
- Student dropout statistics.
- Information on standardized testing, recent test results, and the utilization of test
- Data on the percentages of students who go on to college or other post high school
- Documents showing teacher-pupil ratio and median class size for the district and for
- An explanation of the district's program for exceptional children: those with higher or
lower than normal mentality, impaired sight or hearing, and emotional, neurological and
- Data on age and condition of textbooks and other school equipment.
- A description of libraries, technological tools and other instructional materials in use
now or planned for the future.
- A listing of extra- and co-curricular activities in the district.
Administration and Staff
- A copy of the job description of the superintendent, board secretary, treasurer, and top
- An organization chart of the school district's management structure.
- An explanation of personnel recruitment and hiring procedures.
- A copy of staff salary schedules and fringe benefit programs, including data on average
and median salaries of teachers and administrators.
- Data on staff-administrator ratios.
- A copy of the district's collective bargaining agreement(s), and a brief history of the
recent collective bargaining activities in the district.
- An explanation of the district's evaluation criteria and procedures for administrators,
teachers and support staff.
- An explanation of the district's orientation program for new teachers.
- An explanation of the district's staff development program.
- An explanation of programs, activities and interests of education-oriented groups and
associations (i.e., PTA, Booster Clubs, Education Foundations, Advisory Committees, etc.)
- An explanation of the district's public relations program, how it is coordinated, and
what activities regularly take place.
*This list of orientation and reference materials has been
adapted from the December 1994 issue of School Leaders' Bulletin, published by the
Nebraska Association of School Boards.
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