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CEO’s note

by Vernon M. Billy

It doesn’t take a genius to know that training is required for effective governance

lbert Einstein, a man whose name is synonymous with genius, believed that “intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” Renowned self-help author Brian Tracy said “continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field.” What both men, the scientist and the writer, recognized is that excellence is never static. Inertia is the enemy of innovation and to master a craft, one must keep searching for knowledge.

Continuous learning is especially important in the field of education, where old wisdom is frequently eclipsed by the latest research and past practices are made obsolete by new legislation. Change is the only constant, and the pace of change has accelerated greatly over the past two-and-a-half years. The pandemic and its ripple effects have altered the landscape of public education in profound ways that we don’t yet understand fully.

Reversing the damage caused by the pandemic is not the work of a year or two, it will be a generational effort requiring an unprecedented allocation of resources and a historic level of collaboration across all sectors of society. If we treat this work with the urgency it deserves, we can turn this period into a transformative moment and develop a school system that works for all students. This can’t happen, however, without introspection and a willingness to challenge ourselves. We must leave our comfort zone and seek out new information and different approaches that are suited for this unique time.

A photograph of three notebooks situated next to each other with the yellow notebook front cover showing the title: lifelong learning
We must leave our comfort zone and seek out new information and different approaches that are suited for this unique time.
For school board members, this commitment to continuous improvement can take many forms. Independent reading, networking with other school trustees and education leaders, or talking to teachers, classified staff, students and families are excellent ways to take the pulse of your community and to gather ideas you can implement in your governance practice. Yet, to fully hone your governance skills, you should consider more formal professional development that is designed for the challenges of this era. As noted in Board Bylaw 9240 – Board Training and incorporated in the Professional Governance Standards adopted by our Delegate Assembly, to be a responsible trustee: “each individual Governing Board member will participate in professional development and commit the time and energy necessary to be an informed and effective leader.”

We often talk about how important it is for teachers, administrators and classified staff to stay abreast of new developments in the field and to devote themselves to continuous learning. As education leaders, we must hold ourselves to the same standard and lead by example. As school board members, you should also be transparent about communicating this expectation to the public and explaining its connection to effective policymaking and governance that facilitates student success. Clarifying the board member role and its various demands will help build support for your professional development work and provide the public with a greater understanding of and sympathy for the sacrifices required to do your job well.

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CSBA offers a diversified suite of training options, led by our flagship Master’s in Governance® (MIG) courses. MIG has offerings for both school districts and county offices of education and courses are available online. District MIG features nine focus areas: foundations of effective governance, setting direction, student learning and achievement, policy and judicial review, school finance, human resources, collective bargaining, governance integration, and community relations and advocacy. County MIG has the same focus areas but swaps out human resources and collective bargaining for charter schools and finance and facilities. MIG Governance Consultants are constantly fine-tuning the curriculum to reflect the evolution of school governance.

CSBA’s premier in-person training event is the Annual Education Conference and Trade Show, taking place this year from Dec. 1-3 in San Diego. AEC is the only leadership development opportunity that offers the governance perspective, where you can learn from experts and collaborate with peers to tackle the issues facing LEAs.

CSBA also provides specialized training for board presidents, new school board members, student board members and executive assistants, an often unheralded but extremely important support for the governance team. Our Equity Network training provides a chance for trustees and superintendents to collaborate and build capacity to govern through the lens of equity. For boards that are looking to embrace professional development in a collective fashion, CSBA’s Governance Consulting Services offer customized training aimed at strengthening governance of the board as whole. Governance consulting workshops can help your team sort through common issues as well special circumstances that are unique to your LEA. Since every district’s needs are different, the training for each governance team is customized, but most consultations address leadership, establishing district goals and priorities, drafting governance handbooks, board self-evaluations, superintendent evaluations, developing norms and protocols, and drafting a governance planning calendar.

There’s no question that these trainings require additional time and energy — qualities that are in short supply — but the reward is well worth the commitment. More to the point, extraordinary times like the ones we are experiencing, require extraordinary measures. We hope that every CSBA member will find a way to take some form of professional development, including our soon-to-be unveiled ethics training that meets the new legal requirement that every school trustee must complete an approved ethics training. If you can’t attend one of our many workshops, then we urge you to consider our Online Learning Center, which offers a wide variety of courses that can be completed at any hour of the day, from anywhere with an internet connection.

The options for self-improvement are practically limitless if the dedication is there to extend yourself in service of students. This is a pivotal moment for the future of our students as they rebound from the impact of the pandemic, and it is a crucial period for public education as we confront a host of daunting challenges. There has never been a better time to rise to the occasion and pursue continuous learning — it doesn’t take Einstein to see that.

An expressive, virtual mark of initials provided by Vernon M. Billy