April is a big month for us. NSBA is holding its first in-person conference in three years, in San Diego. Our last in-person conference was in 2019, and it would be an understatement to say much has changed since then.

We are excited to again be able to offer the opportunity for school board members to gather with their colleagues, make connections, and hear inspiring speakers. After two years of the pandemic, the chance to commiserate, compare notes, and encourage one another will be welcome indeed.

Conferences—national, state, and regional—serve another purpose as well. They are places of learning, where school board members can receive information and content specially tailored to their unique roles in public education.

Professional development for school boards is vital to making school districts work for their students. Boards that learn together about how to create a vision statement or how to ensure the board is focused on student achievement are on the same page when these issues come up in the board meetings.

Teacher and staff professional development are no doubt line items on your budgets. Board members need training, too. Gone are the days when board members could eschew professional development for themselves. School governance is a complex task, and it’s only getting more complicated.

We know that to prepare for the future, our students need to think of themselves as lifelong learners. It won’t be enough to thrive in the coming years without being able to constantly learn new things, new skills, and consider new ideas. It’s important that school board members model that behavior as well.

Research backs up the critical need for board training. "The Eight Characteristics of Effective School Boards", which came out of the groundbreaking Iowa Lighthouse study, highlights the school board’s role in improving student achievement: “Effective school boards take part in team development and training, sometimes with their superintendents, to build shared knowledge, values and commitments for their improvement efforts.”

As Rick Maloney, a veteran board member who worked as a trainer for the Washington State School Directors’ Association, wrote in ASBJ recently, “Board professional development is not just nice to do; it is not a sideshow; it cannot be delegated. It is the board’s principal means of improving its own capacity to assure—on behalf of constituents—a more effective school district.” 

Your state school boards association is the first and best place to look for professional development and training opportunities. Most of what you need to know about board governance—from budgeting, curriculum requirements, state regulations, funding sources—is at the state level.

As the former executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards, I’m proud of the depth and breadth of the training and workshops we were able to offer to our members. NSBA’s members offer training, workshops, small and large meetings, and other gatherings. They help train your new board colleagues, and cover topics for longtime board members. They’ll come to your district to hold retreats and help with other issues that may be keeping you from being the best governance team for your district and your students.

If you are coming to San Diego, please introduce yourself. I’m looking forward to meeting you.

John Heim is the executive director and CEO of NSBA.

Around NSBA

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