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KSBA News Article

Executive Insights

Kerri Schelling

Power of peer engagement

Kentucky School Advocate
October 2021

By Kerri Schelling
KSBA Executive Director

School board members know that effective communication is a two-way street. Successfully serving your districts depends on conversations with constituents, the superintendent and each other. Meaningfully contributing to these conversations as both an active listener and speaker gives us the best chance of true understanding. That is the premise behind KSBA’s slate of 2021 Fall Regional Meetings.  

Regional meetings are one of only a handful of opportunities board members have each year to connect directly with colleagues who share the responsibilities (and burdens) unique to school board service. These responsibilities have undergone intense debate and scrutiny since the start of the pandemic. Over the course of 10 weeks, each of KSBA’s 12 regions hosts an evening of learning and networking for board teams, culminating in small group discussions about the relationship between state and local decision-making in our schools.

The meetings held thus far have proven to be thought-provoking, and from the discussions your association is even better equipped to work on your behalf. We believe these conversations are essential given the strong emotions and high stakes around the outcomes of local decisions, not to mention the often-blurry lines of authority as to who decides them.

Kentucky’s system of common schools was designed to be a state and local partnership with the General Assembly ensuring a “substantially uniform” system throughout the state and designating school boards as the policymakers who best understand the resources and needs of their local communities. It’s a complicated collaboration in the best of times, so who decides what happens when we’re arguably in the worst?

It’s a question that school boards across the country – and the state associations that represent them – are asking themselves. While we may not have all the answers yet, the good news is that none of us must go it alone. Just as you are encouraged to build relationships across district lines, our staff develop contacts across state lines. KSBA staff have access to work-alike groups of our counterparts across the nation. Working collaboratively with other experts in school board policy, law, advocacy, communications, superintendent search, training, technology and with other school board association executive directors, helps all of us perform our jobs more effectively and provide our members with exceptional services that can only come with a comprehensive understanding of what’s happening within and outside our borders.

As you prepare to attend one of the remaining regional meetings, the Winter Symposium in December or any KSBA event in 2022, I encourage you to start developing and expanding your network. You and your 856 locally elected public school board peers across the state have a lot in common! Take the opportunity to branch out and strike up a conversation with someone new outside your own board team. The connections you create today can lead to conversations throughout your board service when you have a question or idea to share, need an opinion or could use the understanding of a friend who has walked in your shoes.

When it comes to decision-making, school board members rarely have the luxury of easy answers. The political and educational landscape is ever-changing, and much is out of your control, but keep engaging with your school board peers who are facing the same challenges. Keep talking with your association staff and members of the board of directors. Listening, sharing and working together provides important perspective as you lead on behalf of your students and communities – and as KSBA carries your message forward.

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