Lessons learned leading up to conference
Kentucky School Advocate
By Kerri Schelling
KSBA Executive Director
There is no greater example of our staff’s collaborative talent than KSBA’s Annual Conference. Later this month, members and other education leaders from across the state will gather in Louisville to enjoy the fruits of that collaboration in the form of training, collegiality and a welcome jolt of inspiration. Annual Conference is the culmination of thousands of hours of work that begins more than a year in advance.
For more than 20 years I have had the pleasure of being an active part of that team effort and whether the activity was big (like coordinating the conference agenda) or small (like putting ribbons on name badges) every task is important. Finally seeing the event off and running is a source of great pride for me, personally, and for all the members of our team.
When you spend that much time working closely with others toward a common goal, you learn a few things along the way. Some of these lessons can easily be applied to board service.
Expect the best. Be prepared for the worst. Our Annual Conference runs like a well-oiled machine, a testament to the careful planning and expertise of staff. We are confident going into the conference that we each have done everything in our power to ensure success, but we understand that some things are beyond our control. From unforeseen ice storms and M.I.A. keynote speakers to equipment glitches and errant hotel fire alarms, staff must adapt in real time. The same is true for board members who must be confident their actions support the board’s vision and strategic plan while remaining flexible in the face of unforeseen circumstances.
Study for the test. Each staff member involved with Annual Conference knows exactly what their role is. Weeks before the first conference box is packed, meetings have been held to review the staff itinerary, session schedule, conference program, floor plans, answers to commonly asked questions and contact lists. More than just having those resources, staff members study them, make notes and ask questions. As a board member, it’s not enough to just show up to a meeting with your thick binder or laptop loaded with board materials. Reviewing information carefully in advance allows you to share relevant comments, ask thoughtful questions, make well-informed decisions and actively listen instead of playing catch up.
There is always room for improvement. As stellar as KSBA’s Annual Conferences are, our team takes the opportunity following each event to discuss how we can raise the bar. We value the feedback received from conference attendees – the good, the bad and even the ugly. (That’s why it’s so important to complete those session evaluations!) Likewise, every board team can find ways to improve its governance. That’s a big reason you come to KSBA conferences in the first place. Many long-serving members will point out that they always learn something new at conferences to take back to their districts. There is always room to better oneself as a leader and as a member of a team so seek out professional development, books, mentors – or input from your constituents – that can help you grow and improve as a school board member.
Serve with a smile. Meeting the individual needs of nearly 1,000 conference participants is quite a workout, even with our experienced, talented team. Despite the long days, fast pace and rare occasions when there isn’t an easy fix, we are committed to serving you with a smile. School board members know as well as anyone the futile challenge of trying to keep everyone happy. Not everyone is going to agree with the decisions your board team makes or the rules by which you must abide. Even in the face of disagreement, like heated public comments at board meetings, be mindful of the commitment you made to serve all your constituents. Practice civility always. Be a good listener. Treat others the way you wish to be treated.
I look forward to seeing you in Louisville!