School Board Training Provides Focus

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Story by Deb Seminary, contributing writer

‘Student outcomes don’t change until adult behaviors change.’

The above statement is the focus of the recently introduced North Dakota Be Legendary School Board Leadership Institute, a training program specifically developed for North Dakota school board members.

“Superintendent Baesler was previously a school board president, and she has a passion for the work school board members do,” said Joe Kolosky, Director, Office of School Approval and Opportunity, North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI). “She understands how important it is for school board members to be informed and make correct decisions pertaining to their job duty. She spent a lot of time researching and creating this training, and so far, the feedback has been very positive.”

As part of the training, school boards are instructed to adopt three to five Student Outcome Goals, based on North Dakota’s adopted PK-12 Strategic Framework goals. These will be the priority for their district’s funding, time, and resource allocation. The two-day institute takes them through a process that outlines how to keep their focus on the most pressing student outcome needs.

“A school board member has one of the most important roles in the district, and they need to know what they can do to improve student outcomes,” said Kolosky. “Their job is not to worry about the length of the grass on the football field or the garbage cans not getting emptied appropriately. Their job is to drive student results in their district, ensuring the superintendent and education staff have the resources they need to help their students succeed.”

The training also provides school board members with the vision and goals that a diverse group of ND stakeholders have developed for PK-12 students, such as increasing the number of children in 3rd grade who demonstrate reading proficiency and increase students who graduate choice ready.

“This training offers guidance for setting student academic achievement goals and monitoring the progress toward those goals,” said Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction. “It also includes guidance on how boards should plan their meeting agendas to spend the majority of their time underscoring the importance of focusing all board work and effort with the sole purpose of improving student academic growth and progress.”

So far, nine districts have been awarded grants to take the training and four school boards have completed it. Dickinson Public school board members and school leaders have identified their goals and are excited to get to work on their plan.

“The board left the meeting with a very strong plan and a good grasp on what they want to accomplish,” said Stephanie Hunter, Business Manager, Dickinson Public Schools. “They are on the school board for a purpose and this training gave them the empowerment to create positive change in student outcomes. It also showed me how important finances and resources are in the larger picture for student outcomes.”

“They did a good job of putting us in the right mindset at the beginning of the training,” said Dr. Marcus Lewton, Superintendent, Dickinson Public Schools. “It gave me a refocus and will help me prioritize what is important to the board and build more of an understanding with them. School board members don’t do this to manage stuff, they want to have an impact on kids, so I think this helps build a conduit that allows board members to allocate resources to have an impact.

“When talking about goals, it was important I could provide data to show where we are versus where we want to be to help guide the process. Discussing data can be uncomfortable in a public setting and having guardrails in place for the entire process ensures we all stay in our lanes; it gives us priorities around that data.”

According to the course evaluations, board members appreciate the opportunity to learn more about focusing on setting goals based on student outcomes. They seem excited to get to work on what they have learned and improve educational experiences for North Dakota students.

 

 

 

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