Voice Recognition

KSBA News Article

School Board Recognition Month

School Board Recognition Month

Veteran board members share advice to newly elected counterparts

Kentucky School Advocate
January 2023

January is School Board Recognition Month, a time when local communities are encouraged to celebrate school board members for their dedication and service to their districts. It is also a time when KSBA and other education stakeholders highlight the important responsibilities of our locally elected school boards. This year, KSBA asked veteran school board members what advice they would give to those recently elected to office (or those who might be considering board service in the future). As expected, our members delivered with an overwhelming response. Here is just a sampling of the many words of wisdom received by local leaders from across Kentucky.

For district administrators: Check out KSBA’s easy-to-use School Board Recognition Month toolkit at KSBA.org. The kit comes complete with celebration ideas, templates, social medial graphics, certificates and more! Share your celebrations on social media by using the hashtag #LoveKySchoolBoards.

“Take time to get to know your teammates. Be prepared, and don’t come to a meeting or discussion with an agenda that doesn’t have students first. Remember you made a choice to serve and the service is of others. Remember that KSBA is your organization that is there to support you throughout your board journey!” - Andrew Cline, Shelby County  

“Listen to understand, read everything closely, and listen some more. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and continue to ask until you have clarity. Remember to spend time building relationships across the district, it’s well worth the time investment. Never forget it’s ALWAYS about what’s best for the students!” - Maria Brown, Boone County

“Start your newly elected office with an open mind and gather as much information as possible concerning anything dealing with your school district before casting your vote. Always keep the wellbeing of the children in your school district first and foremost. Even though this is an elected position, keep politics out of your school board. Good luck in all you do.” - Debbie Nicholson, Jackson County

“Please don't come into this service expecting to change the world or even your school district in the first few months. Come into your new adventure with an open mind and a mind that is willing to learn the ins and outs of being the best school board member you can be for your community.” - Vanessa Lucas, Breckinridge County

“Knowing what is NOT included in your supervisory and performance responsibilities as a board member is just as important as knowing what is included in those same responsibilities.” - Melissa Decker, Owensboro Independent

“Hopefully the only reasons you are a board member are for the betterment of your district, and, more importantly, the kids of your district. Each and every decision that is made will ultimately impact the kids in some way. So, when deciding how to vote, think about how that vote will affect the kids and then vote accordingly.” - Tim Kennaday, Caldwell County

“Go on school visits with the superintendent and walk around and talk with the principal about how you can help. Visit the building maintenance and bus garage. Let them know you appreciate them.” - Brandon Rutherford, Madison County

“Be transparent and clear in your vision for your district. Remember that your mission is to be an advocate for ALL students, not only in areas of achievement, but also in citizenship and strategic direction. Be trustworthy, dependable and open minded. Embrace your role on your school board team as an honor and a privilege.” - Suzy Turner, Trimble County  

“Listen (to the superintendent, staff, parents, community, etc.); ask questions during board meetings and training; take advantage of as many training opportunities as possible; network with other board members; communicate regularly with lawmakers.” - Davonna Page, Russellville Independent

“Build good, trusting relationships with the principals in your district. You need honest feedback on recommendations your superintendent is making. Listen to them, but don’t quote them. If they share a concern, make it your own if you share it with the superintendent. Never throw principals under the bus. You need their honesty.” - Linda Duncan, Jefferson County

“When you communicate with people about anything that might involve your district, be sure to signal clearly whether you are communicating as a board member, a parent, a private citizen, etc. Use your school board email exclusively for school board business to help keep your roles in the community distinct. This helps to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest.” - Scott Davison, Rowan County

“Don’t get overwhelmed. You have an entire community of support in your corner from those who supported your election to your fellow board members to school staff to KSBA. There’s always someone who will listen and provide support.” - Tom Haggard, Covington Independent

“To maintain a good relationship with your fellow board members and superintendent, know your responsibilities and don’t try to overstep them.” - Cindy Price, Pulaski County

“To have an open mind to every board member’s ideas, never shutting down their suggestions but discuss them in open and honest dialogue. Being a new board member, you will be the first one that your constituents call on. Listen intently to what they have to say and never respond back with negative remarks. You will find most of the time they are looking for someone to hear what they have to say and they will be content with that.” - David Webster, Simpson County

“Always be prepared for the unexpected; from Dawson Springs, we understand that now. KDE and KSBA will support you with the best advice they can provide. Trust them if you ever have to look out at your district and find rubble and sticks and concrete dust where your families used to live. It’s traumatic, and you will need support because you may not be able to see a path in your darkness. Let them help you.”  - Carol Niswonger, Dawson Springs Independent

"1. Read every word of your board minutes before your meeting and ask questions for clarification before the meeting takes place!
2. Always try to look at every problem through the eyes of the person/group affected.
3. Be visible in your schools and be an active participant in school functions whenever possible.
4. Put students’ welfare first in your decisions." - Steve Dent, Henry County

“Take time to listen to your fellow board members and superintendent. You may have some great ideas, but they may be ideas already tried. Get an understanding of where the board has been before trying to take the board down a path already traveled.
If you’re wanting to try something non-traditional, don’t get discouraged if the board initially doesn’t agree. Sometimes “no” means “I don't know enough.” Don’t be afraid to do more research and come back to it again.” - Blair Skidmore, Barbourville Independent

“Take advice from your fellow board members who have experience. They will help guide you. Also, know your role as a board member. There is an informative printout on KSBA’s website.” - Brittany Ratliff, Pikeville Independent

“The best advice I could give would be if my opinion is not the same as my fellow board members, it still needs to be heard.” - Joyce Hoskins, Middlesboro Independent

“You are a member of a team with one voice.” - Gene Nelson, Grant County

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