By Jennifer Wohlleb
School board members may be evaluated every four years at the polls by voters, but that does not mean they can’t benefit from a thorough self-evaluation while they are in office.
“Self-evaluation provides an opportunity for school board members and superintendents to reflect on their own personal performance as well as the performance of the board/superintendent team,” said Jean Crowley, KSBA board team development specialist and chairwoman of the Danville Board of Education. “Reflecting on performance can lead to a higher level of leadership and the opportunity for boards to really focus on the goals they’ve laid out for their students.”
Crowley called it a best practice, particularly now with the renewed focus on evaluations of teachers, principals and superintendents.
“A self-evaluation every year or every two years will help keep boards moving in the right direction,” she said. “The process recognizes board strengths, identifies areas for improvement and assists the board in achieving common goals. The self-evaluation instrument should focus on the basic areas of board work. Self-reflection provides an opportunity for board members to consider all the aspects of their job, including where they can use some improvements as well as what they are doing well.”
It provides a picture of where they are as a board/superintendent team, where they want to be and helps them develop strategies and a plan to move toward where they should be.
Crowley said there are different approaches to self-evaluation, and KSBA can help facilitate the process.
“If a board is not sure they want to participate in this process, we can provide a 75-minute training session to help the board/superintendent team better understand why self-evaluation is important, how it can improve the board’s leadership, various types of instruments that may be used, and what the KSBA process entails,” she said.
If a board knows it wants to complete the self-evaluation process, it can select the instrument and proceed.
Crowley said the actual self-evaluation process involves each board member and the superintendent anonymously completing the evaluation form and submitting it to KSBA. When all forms have been received, KSBA compiles and summarizes the confidential results. A two-hour training session is scheduled with the board/superintendent team to review the results and develop plans to celebrate successes and identify strategies and resources for improvements based on their responses and effective board practices.
The results provide board team members with a starting point to make improvements.
For example, “if they agree that board meetings are not as effective as they could be, they can develop procedures to improve board meeting effectiveness,” Crowley said.
Areas of governance team self-evaluation may include: student achievement, district vision and goals, strategic focus, board-superintendent relations, board member conduct and ethics, board team building, decision making, communication, budget oversight, meetings, community relations, district climate, accountability, and board team effectiveness.
“But self-evaluation is not about the instrument a school board uses; it’s about the conversations that happen around the board table” Crowley said. “Being open, honest and respectful helps to ensure the process is a positive tool for change and assists the board to foster communication, improve decision making and continually improve the operations of the board. “
Comments from board members and superintendents who have completed self-evaluations in their district include “good for board individually and as a whole,” “helpful to see what others think about how we are working together,” “liked hearing from other board members,” and “allows boards to see how they view relationships.”
— For more information about board self evaluations, contact Crowley at at 800-372-2962.