County board member trainings offer rich professional development experiences

A diverse group of people in an office space with laptops and tablets in front of them
Effective leadership is essential for any successful organization, including county offices of education and school districts. Being a board member is a difficult and complex job that requires an in-depth knowledge of school governance. Research has shown that high-functioning boards lead high-achieving organizations. In addition, board members can lead by example and set the direction for a culture of life-long learning. The first few months of 2021 provided exciting professional development opportunities for county board members.
2021 Virtual Governance Workshop
A cohort of county office of education board members and superintendents completed the California County Boards of Education’s virtual board governance workshop over five Tuesdays in March. The interactive program provided training for both first-term and veteran county board members on county-focused topics, including the county board–superintendent shared governance role, CCBE member benefits, equity in education, county board interdistrict transfers and appellate roles, charter school oversight, the role of special education local plan areas (SELPAs) in California, the Local Control and Accountability Plan, legislative advocacy and much more.

Feedback from attendees indicated they learned a lot and found the training to be an exceptional experience. One evaluator said, “The sessions were engaging and excellent, there was a good balance of presentation versus discussion by attendees, content was relevant, the information was clear and complete, and this professional development was an excellent source of focused training for county boards and their role and provided real-world experience.”

The workshop attendees will also be invited to one final workshop session prior to the CCBE annual conference in Monterey from Sept. 10–12. The session will take a deeper dive into specific county board topics, as well as provide an opportunity for the attendees to meet in person and network with the CCBE Board of Directors.

The governance workshop was organized by CCBE’s Professional Development Training Committee: Amy Christianson, Chair, Butte County BOE; Beverly Gerard, San Mateo County BOE; Jennifer Kresge, Napa County BOE; Laura Mancha, San Bernardino County BOE; Marcy Masumoto, Fresno County BOE; David Patterson, Placer County BOE; and Janet Wohlgemuth, Monterey County BOE.

New MIG for COEs program graduates inaugural class
Nearly 40 county board of education trustees and county superintendents from throughout the state earned the distinction in April of being the first graduates of CSBA’s Masters in Governance® for COEs program.

The inaugural MIG for COEs began in December 2020 and covered four courses over eight, four-hour sessions. The courses, which were held over Zoom, addressed foundations of effective governance, setting direction, policy and judicial review, finance and charter schools, community relations and advocacy, and integration. The instructors included current and former county board members and retired county superintendents.

Participants ranged from new board members elected in November 2020 to those who were in their third terms in office. No matter their board experience, participants agreed the MIG for COEs was well worth their time and will help them be better board members.

Dana Dean, Solano County Board of Education trustee and CCBE past president, is also a graduate of CSBA’s original MIG program, which she completed when she was a trustee in the Benicia Unified School District. Even with her 13 years of board governance experience, she found MIG for COEs to be valuable and encourages all county board members to participate. “The program truly gave us an in-depth opportunity to look at, understand and discuss the specific details of governance that are distinct to county boards,” Dean said. “I found it to be so very helpful because of the opportunities to learn new details, refresh and deepen my understanding in some areas, and, most importantly, to engage with my colleagues from all around the state about their thoughts and experiences. The MIG program allows for a kind of thoughtful review and discussion amongst peers of critical governance details that are not usually afforded.”

Three of the seven members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Education, along with their superintendent Dr. Susan Salcido, participated in MIG for COEs. New trustee Michelle de Werd said the program was phenomenal. “The program was well organized with highly skilled, experienced, supportive and personable presenters who made the ‘drinking from the firehouse’ experience manageable and engaging,” de Werd said. “I quickly became more equipped to ask questions regarding county budgets, and how to identify key parts of the budget. The charter school course was especially useful given our county board had a pending charter school petition appeal, which was a first for me.”

De Werd said she now feels more secure in her role, and in how to be more effective and accountable to ultimately benefit all Santa Barbara County students. She also said she believes having her county superintendent participate alongside board members “was particularly valuable and strengthened our relationship and shared goals.”

An expanded MIG for COEs will take place Aug.19 through Nov. 6 and consist of five-courses over 10 sessions. The expansion is in response to feedback from the inaugural class that members would like more time devoted to budgets and charter schools, according to CSBA Trainings Manager Andrea Flamenco.

“CSBA values member feedback and uses this information to develop and refine our training programming. The five-course program will facilitate a richer learning experience, since it includes one full course on finance and one on charter schools. Both courses focus on the roles and responsibilities of our county board of education members,” Flamenco said.

Flamenco added there will be two opportunities to complete the series in summer and fall, with both in-person and virtual options.