It is rare to see board members speak publicly and even rarer that they put their words on paper (electronic even), but when I saw this article, one idea (among many, it’s a good article) tickled my philosophers bone, so forgive me for waxing a bit here. I freely disclaim being an gray-haired egg-head, so every now and then I just have to show my stripes a bit.
In getting my arms around this job, I’ve been thinking a lot about what a board is and I’ve come to the rough conclusion that a school board is more of an idea than a thing. A board is not its individual members and it is certainly not an unchanging thing. Indeed, the board is only what it is at the moment that it acts or makes a formal decision on a particular matter and can be very different both before and after that moment, since the make-up of the “mind” of the board can change over time. This is a fascinating idea and one, I suppose, that is true of any policy body made up of more than one individual.
About all I can say is that a board is what a board does (Thankyou, Forest Gump!) and, more specifically, that a board is strategic if it acts strategically, that it is concerned if it acts concerned, and so on. Further, since a board is not what its individual members are, we have to think as a community about what we want our board to be, based on what we want it to do. This is a very functional approach, but I can’t think of a better alternative approach.
Here’s one implication. While a board may be made up of nine members, it is wrong to feel that any individual represents the board or, when being addressed, that the comments are being addressed to any individual. This may be a hard concept for most who see the board as having a set of faces, but one way to avoid feeling overly passionate about a board’s actions (or lack thereof) is to simply talk about what a board IS doing and what it OUGHT to do, based on some rationale. To me, this is why it is so incumbent on a public board to be as transparent and communicative as possible, i.e., so that others can know what is in the mind of the board, however fleetingly or fickle.
Perhaps this idea of a board could being something like an object, a gavel perhaps, or a small tree, sitting in the middle of the room and that everyone can see and discuss, but it is not a thing that can express its opinions or be seen to be affected by any discussions until it acts in a particular way.
An interesting idea…or maybe not. They are my stripes.