Since the start of the pandemic, schools have shifted toward virtual operations, the most notable of which has been online classes. But what does this transition look like for other areas of your school’s administration, such as your board of directors?
By leveraging effective technology, your school board can transparently conduct its work to increase community participation, establish a sense of trust, and streamline work altogether. You can conduct meetings, centralize meeting materials, and store information regarding district goals in one location, making it easy to share these materials with your community.
Why does all this matter? For one, most school districts and local lawmakers require school boards to maintain transparency via open meeting laws and similar regulations. In addition to their duty to legally comply with these rules, maintaining transparency, establishing community trust, and prioritizing strategies for higher academic achievement should be part of your board’s main objectives.
Leveraging technology is a powerful way to streamline this process. As more schools are returning to in-person operations, it’s worth considering whether new technology will mean revamping your current board management strategy or starting from scratch. We’ll walk through several ways members of your school board can infuse technology into their work, including:
- Use virtual meeting tools to conduct hybrid meetings.
- Share public access to relevant information.
- Track goals for the school year.
School board members are intended to be leaders and advocates for public education, and technology allows them to streamline their work, opening up more opportunities to develop plans that support academic excellence. It all comes down to how you incorporate your tools into your work. Let’s get started.
1. Use virtual meeting tools to conduct hybrid meetings.
Your board members likely have varying perspectives on the pandemic. Some will be comfortable with meeting in person, while others will prefer attending from a remote location as we continue facing ongoing health concerns. To accommodate everyone’s preferences, equip your school board with hybrid meeting tools.
While your instructors might take the initiative with a hybrid classroom setup, you may question how similar technology can accommodate board members’ unique responsibilities, such as preparing for meetings, voting on important decision-making items, and communicating after the fact. Here’s how technology can play into your hybrid board meetings:
Fully plan meetings to keep the momentum going.
You don’t want to skip out on meeting planning. A digital agenda builder can help your school board’s president create a roadmap for your upcoming meetings. You should be able to:
- Order your meeting exactly how you need to with easy-to-use editing tools.
- Assign agenda items to different speakers so everyone’s not sitting around listening to the board president speak the entire time.
- Allot a set time for each item so everyone knows how much time to spend on each topic.
- Assign objectives to items (e.g. arrive at a decision or share information) so board members know what they’re working toward.
- Securely share the completed agenda ahead of time so everyone can sufficiently prepare and come with insightful thoughts.
Your agenda and how well the facilitator sticks to it will ultimately determine how productive your meeting is. Be sure to pull your agenda up on everyone’s screens during your meeting to keep everyone on track.
Take comprehensive minutes.
During your school board meetings, attendees will likely get into a groove and start tossing out thoughtful ideas left and right, especially if they’re fully invested in the conversation. The last thing you want is to wrap up the meeting only to realize no one was taking notes on all the great ideas that were flying around the room.
That’s why you should leverage technology to record effective minutes. Your school board’s secretary should be able to create templates to quickly take notes or take minutes directly on your agenda. This eliminates the need to start from scratch and waste valuable meeting time (or worse, miss key information altogether). That way, you won’t slow down the meeting or exclude key discussions, which helps your school avoid liability issues.
Your school board’s responsible for establishing your district’s vision and making official decisions to achieve that vision. Whether they’re voting on this year’s curriculum or determining how to spend the school’s funds, this can directly impact the public’s trust. To make effective official decisions and inform the public about them, equip the board with virtual voting tools that allow them to:
- Enable anonymous voting for sensitive decisions
- Create upcoming polls for the school board to review before a meeting
- Allow members to vote from their smartphones, making it easy for both remote and in-person attendees to contribute
Everyone can share their opinions regardless if they’re physically present. Plus, this streamlines the board voting process altogether since you won’t have to spend time counting raised hands or paper ballots. Then, you can quickly record the votes in the agenda and share results for major decisions with the public.
Use video conferencing to connect face-to-face.
As your school has probably experimented with distance learning, you likely recognize that a lack of face-to-face interaction is a common pitfall of remote meetings. Fortunately, face-to-face interactions can be emulated in an online meeting space with the right technology. Make sure your virtual meeting toolkit includes a video conferencing tool. This will enable your board members to gauge each others’ body language when talking to detect enthusiasm, disagreement, or boredom.
Establish video conferencing etiquette rules to make this tech-based strategy as effective as possible. Ask your board members to:
- Find a quiet location to attend
- Remain muted when not speaking to eliminate background noise
- Be camera-ready with proper attire
Video conferencing also makes it easier to record meetings to share with community members who want to know what’s going on in the boardroom. Even though it’s likely not required in your district, recording board meetings is a great way to maintain a sense of trust among the community and get everyone involved in the district’s success.
2. Share public access to relevant information.
Given that community members fund your school through taxes, they’re considered stakeholders for your school district. This means they have a right to know what’s going on in the boardroom and whether funds are being used properly. You can accomplish this by providing public access to relevant information.
During and between committee and board meetings, your board members communicate constantly and make a lot of decisions. While not everything should be shared with the public (like the board’s evaluation of the superintendent), some things are worth sharing with your community to establish a sense of trust and transparency.
Here are a few suggestions that will help you filter through your board materials and deem what’s worthy of sharing with your community:
- Announce when and where your next meeting will be, as well as whether that meeting will be open to the public.
- Share the agenda online ahead of meetings. This allows for viewing information prior to meetings.
- Share livestreams or video archives of public school board meetings.
- Centralize meeting documents such as agendas, minutes, and any other official resources in an online archive, where people can reference them at any point.
- Share goals that your board sets. We’ll cover this more in-depth in the next section.
Overall, showing community members the appropriate resources promotes a strong sense of trust in your board and its ability to make decisions. A school’s website is its ultimate online brand statement and is the perfect location to share information with parents and prospective students. Start by sharing key information here, such as meeting details on your event calendar and recordings of past meetings.
To help share other information, your board management software can store pertinent board materials (like policies, meeting materials, and legislative information), while allowing software administrators to adjust who has access to which resources. That way, you can pick and choose what’s shared with the public without concern that they’ll access sensitive documents.
3. Track goals for the school year.
Typically over the summer, your board will define objectives for the upcoming year. Crafting those objectives is no small feat. The board must determine what’s crucial to your district’s success and what supporting data they’ll use to monitor progress. The official goals they set must be measurable and have a visionary breadth.
Part of going digital means you can eliminate the struggle and waste of physical documentation by going paperless. Modern tools take this strategy even further.
With traditional, non-collaborative documentation software, multiple versions of new documents can end up circulating as people send in their edits separately, causing confusion. Whereas with collaborative documentation software, the process might look like this:
- Your board president uploads a rough draft of a recent goal discussed in a board meeting.
- One board member, Elizabeth, comments her suggestions, which are timestamped and available for other users to see.
- Another board member, Derek, reads Elizabeth’s comment and provides a suggestion to a different part of the goal, rather than simply reiterating what she’s already suggested.
- Future commenters can access the document and work off of the same version, and the administrator can go in and accept (or reject) these changes at any point.
Setting these goals typically requires an extensive editing process, where all board members review and contribute their suggestions. A collaborative editing tool makes setting these goals substantially easier as board members can add their comments and collaborate with others online in real-time.
There’s no need to send out a new document every time a revision is made when people can all contribute their ideas at once and see one another’s suggestions. Collaborative editing tools eliminate the back-and-forth, especially when everyone can access the documents at any point using your board portal.
Track progress toward goals.
Once you’ve collaborated on goals for the upcoming school year, you’ll need a way to measure them. Just because setting your district’s objectives for the year can be time-consuming doesn’t mean tracking them should be.
From school fundraising objectives to student attendance goals, goal tracking tools make objectives easily traceable. Storing and updating your goals helps track your progress throughout the school year, ensuring whoever’s in charge of fulfilling that goal stays on track.
And as we mentioned earlier, sharing these goals is a great way to establish a sense of transparency. Community members who are invested in the district’s success will naturally have their own objectives for your district’s schools. Sharing goals and progress with them helps them determine if your board’s vision aligns with theirs and if the board is taking appropriate action to reach those goals.
When leveraged effectively, technology can provide a lot of good for your board of education. As we’ve covered, it enables them to streamline their meetings, publicly share the proper information, and track the district’s progress throughout the school year.
No matter how you leverage your technology, prioritize ease-of-use when choosing new tools. School boards should spend the bulk of their time making impactful decisions, not managing complicated software. By carefully selecting your software and determining how to leverage it, you can substantially enhance your school board’s work. As a result, your board will be well on its way to improving your school’s learning experience and promoting academic excellence.