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Charter Board Partners

GreatBoards Series: Don’t Know What You’ve Got (‘Til It’s Gone)

November 17, 2014 | by Kate Essex

This second post in our “What Do Great Boards Do?” series focuses on what effective charter school boards do to build a great relationship with their schools' leadership.

Exceptional charter school leaders are hard to find and even harder to replace. A recent survey of 400 charter school leaders found that 71 percent planned to leave their school within five years. When faced with this reality, what’s a charter school board to do?

Great charter school boards make sure that they have the right leaders in place to execute their schools’ missions, and they provide support, feedback, and professional development to help leaders stay successful. Great boards also plan proactively to mitigate churn from the eventual (and inevitable) leadership transition.

What does a great board do to ensure exceptional school leadership? To start, a great board:

  • Makes sure its leader has an up-to-date job description
  • Supports its leader in setting annual goals (including professional development goals)
  • Establishes an annual evaluation system that includes regular opportunities for meaningful feedback
  • Supports its leader in succession planning, ensuring that the leadership bench is deep and well thought-out
  • Asks tough questions when necessary, always framed with a focus on solving challenges proactively
  • And perhaps the most important of all: a great board champions its school leader. This is a ridiculously hard job, people! Show your leader you understand and appreciate the countless hours and energy it takes to run a top-notch school. Regularly ask what’s keeping your school leader up at night (and what you can do to help). Send your school leader a note on the first day of school congratulating him or her on the start of a new school year. Check in before spring testing begins to offer your encouragement.

So, how is your board doing in being both a critical friend and cheerleader for your school leader? Not to worry if you feel behind the ball: CBP has a slate of tools that can help. You can find our action-oriented tools on School Leader EvaluationGoal SettingSuccession Planning, and School Leader Reports on GreatBoards come this December (or if you are already a CBP partner, ask your coach for these tools now!). In the meantime, do me a favor—make sure you have your school leader’s birthday circled on your calendar.


Coming soon: This December Charter Board Partners will launch its newest program, GreatBoards, designed to help charter school boards understand and implement best governance practices. GreatBoards is an affordable online portal that hosts easy-to-use tools and resources organized by our Standards for Effective Charter School Governance. For more information, please reach out to Kate Williamson at kwilliamson@charterboards.org.

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