School board hopefuls get a taste of the real thing
Candidates running for school board positions throughout Southern Illinois were given the opportunity to learn about the posts they could fill and the school board’s operations at an event hosted by the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) recently.
The Mt. Vernon Register-News said the potential officials learned about the rules governing the school board and how members work together to produce results during “Briefing for Candidates,” a breakout session of the IASB Egyptian quarterly meeting. The Egyptian Division covers Southern Illinois and the Mt. Vernon Township High School, where the meeting took place.
Wayne City school board candidate Kirk Barnard, speaking to the Register-News before the session, said that he hoped to learn more about the regulations surrounding school boards and the responsibilities borne by school board members.
“You know, what are the roles and what is the board's authority,” Barnard said. “Where [are] the lines; what can or can't they [do].”
The session helped candidates understand both the campaign process and what to expect if they are elected.
“We just want to give them a snippet of information as to what they may expect for running for the board,” Patrick Rice, IAB director of Field Services and the session leader, said. “And if they are successful in getting elected, [to] let them know about mandatory training requirements from the state.”
Rice also offered the candidates information he hopes will make them more effective if elected. He explained that one of the most difficult elements of creating an effective, cohesive school board is often getting all of the members to work as one. He emphasized that school boards must be run as a collective, not individually.
“You may not always get your way, but you get your say,” Rice said.
The wider IASB meeting allowed current school board members and superintendents from throughout the Egyptian Division to come together for a business meeting of the advocacy group and some educational sessions.
“I think that the biggest point is, our association is an association of school board members,” Ben Schwarm, IASB deputy executive director, told the Register-News. “It's their association. [There's] a lot of local control. They make the decision for their association.”
During the business meeting portion of the event, Egyptian Division Director John Metzger and Resolutions Chair Lisa Irvin spoke before ceding the floor to the evening’s two breakout sessions. In addition to “Briefing for Candidates,” the IASB hosted a session called “How to Win Staff and Influence School System Success,” presented by former Principal Patrick Muhammad.
The educational presentation focused on strategies and techniques for winning over staff, including effectively communicating, ensuring messages are received and requesting feedback. He aimed to inspire and arm the administrators through his session.
Muhammad took a strong stance against top-down leadership, arguing that school board members and superintendents should instead see themselves as a resource for their staffs.
“At the end of the day, we're working on servant leadership,” Muhammad said. “Those are the most effective leaders.”
In addition to providing useful skill development opportunities, the breakout sessions were also a chance for attendees to earn professional development credits.
“It's an opportunity for them to meet with other school board members and just find out what's going on around the county and in this part of the state,” Erik Estill, superintendent of Rome Grade School, said.