Sepideh Yeoh, Board Member
Teri Vigil, Board Member
Daryl Camp, Board Member
by Sepideh Yeoh, Teri vigil and Daryl Camp
Boardwise is a forum for board members and superintendents across the state to share questions about governance and board-superintendent relations. Send your questions to This year, in addition to our column regulars, Deb Dudley; Steve Ladd, Ed.D; Arati Nagaraj; Luan Burman Rivera; Teri Vigil and Sepideh Yeoh, we are welcoming new consultants to the column. This issue introduces Dr. Daryl Camp, superintendent with San Lorenzo USD. Camp is also a governance consultant with CSBA’s Governance Consulting Services, developing customized board development workshops for governance teams.
Creating a culture that supports all students

Dear Boardwise

How do we as a board create a district culture that supports the success of all students?

Sepideh Yeoh: This is a great question. Fostering a district culture that supports success for all students should be a priority for all governance teams. After all, schools exist for the sole purpose of providing a supportive environment where all students can succeed. The governance team has the responsibility to establish and sustain a supportive culture for the district. This culture, however, is not magically created. It takes time, awareness and mindfulness. Furthermore, it begins with each individual member of the governance team.

You may begin by examining the reasons why you serve on the governance team. You may ask yourself, “what motivated me to run or accept the appointment on the governance team?” When you revisit your “why,” you renew your commitment to best serve the district’s/county office of education’s customers — that is, the students. This step will allow you to align your input (your “why” equals values, goals and objectives) with your output (how your “why” translates into success for all students).

When you revisit your ‘why,’ you renew your commitment to best serve the district’s/county office of education’s customers — that is, the students.
“When you revisit your ‘why,’ you renew your commitment to best serve the district’s/county office of education’s customers — that is, the students.”

Another important aspect of your individual contribution to a positive culture is preparation. In preparing to be an effective and valuable member of your governance team, ask yourself, and be honest:

  1. Do you spend the appropriate time preparing for each meeting?
  2. Do you ask questions and feel you receive adequate information to make your decisions?
  3. Are you willing to have difficult conversations in order to gather the information you need in making sound decisions? If not, what will you do differently to change that?
  4. Are you committed to learn more about challenges across your district, including removing barriers that prevent equity and access for all students to succeed?

When you take the necessary steps to be prepared for each meeting, you will be better able to engage in discussions and support strategies that lead to the success of all students. When each member comes to meetings prepared and ready, the governance team can hold productive discussions about student success.

In summary, while you may not have a lot of choices about the challenges facing public education, you make the choice to be focused and effective. Your individual effectiveness contributes to your governance team’s effectiveness. Fostering a collaborative and positive culture that leads to success for all students depends on each individual board member performing at their highest level together.

Teri Vigil: Once you explore how you are individually contributing to the governance team, it’s time for your team to work collectively. A step toward doing so is to establish, or revisit, your unity of purpose.

Unity of purpose is the tool to set the district culture that supports achievement for all students. It is a statement that should reflect your governance team’s core values and vision and state your team’s beliefs about the success of all students within your district or county office of education.

It’s important for the governance team to not only refer to the unity of purpose, but to act on those core values and beliefs. Defining, discussing and reviewing the measures and indicators of student achievement are actions governance teams can take to support student success.

Your board may want to schedule a study session to discuss the local educational agency’s progress on student achievement and success. The LEA’s California School Dashboard profile can be a useful tool and the indicators on student suspensions and expulsions, student absenteeism and A-G requirement completion will give your team an indication on how well all students are doing.

A study session is also an opportunity to explore whether your policies and decisions are based in equity and are helping to move the needle for all students. Equity is defined and understood as giving students what they need, when they need it. Does that mean that we are not looking at the needs of students who are reaching the indicators of success? Not at all. When we give extra supports to students in need and move the needle for them, it raises student achievement for all.

When a governance team is really pledging allegiance to its unity of purpose, it is reflected in the end by serving and uplifting all students in the district or county office.

Daryl Camp: As Sepideh shared, a governance team can play an integral role in establishing a culture of trust that supports the success of all students within a district/COE. It is important for each board member to commit to developing individually as a trustee in order to contribute to the success of the governance team. In The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey suggests that an organization with a trusting culture is able to increase effectiveness and speed.

Just as the governance team should be intentional and mindful when developing this culture of trust, it should be as intentional in establishing a culture that supports the success of all students. This can be done by mindfully governing with the five roles of the governance team: 1) Setting direction, 2) Establishing the structure, 3) Creating a supportive environment, 4) Ensuring accountability and 5) Demonstrating community leadership. When the governance team applies these five responsibilities to create a culture that supports the success of all students, it is better able to set direction and strategies that create and maintain a positive culture in which all students succeed.

Covey indicates that trust is built on establishing clear intentions, signaling what you are going to do and doing what you said you were going to do. This can also apply to supporting all students — when the governance team shares the vision to support all students in the unity of purpose and sets the direction on how the district/COE can be supportive, it creates a culture in which the success of all students is a priority.

By setting the direction (vision), establishing the structure and supportive environment (mission, resource allocation) and ensuring accountability, a governance team sets clear expectations for the district/COE and indicates its commitment to the success of all students.