North Dakota Be Legendary School Board Institute

State Strategy & Vision

The education disruption of the last two years has underscored the importance of strong school boards that are able to stay focused on student outcomes. At a time when school boards across the nation are being submitted to new challenges and scrutiny, the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (DPI) decided to invest in supporting, empowering, and equipping school board members. To that end, DPI is investing $500,000 in federal COVID relief funds to create a comprehensive school board training institute, which includes two years of ongoing coaching for participating board members. DPI’s goal is to provide existing and incoming board members with a foundational understanding of the mindsets and tools they will need to drive student outcomes throughout their term.

Why We Like It

DPI is meeting a clear educational need while keeping an eye on the long-term sustainability of its investments with the Be Legendary School Board Institute. The last few years have demonstrated how crucial a strong, student-focused school board is to the ability of school districts to weather challenges and crises. When the debate turns to the needs of adults, students do not benefit – so it is exciting to see a state use its recovery funds to empower and equip leaders to more effectively achieve their goals for students.

What They Did

The Be Legendary School Board Leadership Institute is a partnership with the creators of the Lone Star Governance program in Texas, though the program has been adapted from the bottom up to fit the unique contexts and needs of North Dakota schools. Each cohort of ten school boards begins by attending a two-day institute that focuses on learning the mindset of an effective school board member. Among other things, participants learn about setting student outcome goals aligned to the state’s existing goals for student success, with specific focus on using these student-focused goals as north stars for everything the school board does.

Following the institute, school board members benefit from two years of ongoing coaching. The focus of Be Legendary School Board Leadership Institute and the implementation of the Framework is to align the behavior of board members individually and boards collectively to improve student outcomes. Research shows student outcomes rapidly improve when School Board Leadership Teams intensely focus on consistently achieving six specific objectives included in the Framework.

The program is opt-in, though the school boards of comprehensive and targeted support schools will be required to participate in upcoming cohorts. DPI has committed to publicly recognizing participation and lifting up school board members who have decided to participate and grow their board leadership skills.

Importantly, DPI actively engaged the North Dakota School Board Association (NDSBA) in the development and implementation of the institute. This foresight prevented competition or friction between competing school board resources. As a result, the NDSBA has endorsed the Be Legendary School Board Institute and has relayed relevant information to its members.

To ensure sustainability, DPI is adopting a “train-the-trainer approach”, in that participating school board members who excel in the institute will be engaged to train future board members.

For more information about North Dakota’s K-12 recovery strategy, please contact Laurie Matzke, assistant superintendent at the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

About the Author

Chad Aldeman is a nationally recognized expert on education policy, including school finance; teacher preparation, evaluation, and compensation; and state standards, assessment, and accountability. Keep up with Chad on the EduProgess: Unpacked blog.

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