Results show how the board functions as a team to serve the community

The Forest Lake Area School Board members enacted a new practice of board self-evaluation and assessment on Thursday, July 15 to understand how they can work more efficiently to achieve the goals of their 2020-2025 strategic plan. 

The school board members took the Minnesota School Board Association’s survey several weeks ago and reviewed the results during their workshop with Gail Gilman, director of Strategic Planning and Board Leadership with MSBA, to discuss their collective results in five categories. 

Gilman facilitated the conversation through the five standards of board leadership: conduct and ethics, vision, structure, accountability and advocacy; and communication. Gilman said the results of their collective assessment data show the board is a high-functioning team compared to other school districts in the state that she has worked with.

Gilman’s role in the meeting was to cover certain points within the survey data where members’ answers differed to make sure the board was on the same page going forward. 

Some topics that resulted in differing opinions from board members that led to a larger discussion were topics of monitoring the progress of strategic plan goals and the committee and community involvement in the school board’s decision making process. 

The board members aimed to monitor their progress based on how they are achieving the goals set in their 2020-2025 strategic plan, and agreed that more updates on progression toward goals will be helpful in the future. 

Board member Rob Rapheal said they planned out who would be in charge of documenting and disseminating progress with the strategic plan. However, he said that line of communication was too document-based and formal. 

“I think that we could do better if we just had more regular updates on particular parts of the strategic plan,” Rapheal said. 

Superintendent Steve Massey distributes weekly updates to the board and calls attention to how their updates align with the strategic plan in formal reports, board President Jeff Peterson said. The board agreed seeing the comparison to how their decisions align with long-term and short-term goals is a helpful tool to use going forward.

Board member Kate Luthner said addressing a strategic plan update at one of the board meetings each month would be a helpful to make sure there are no gaps in the goals for the plan going forward. 

Committee and community involvement

Another topic the board discussed was understanding how the community is involved in the work of their decision-making processes. 

Rapheal said their reliance on the committees allows them to have a more collaborative process throughout the school board decision-making process. He said by the time policies are being passed by the board, prior exhaustive discussions have taken place. 

He said individuals that want to be involved in helping make decisions have the outlets to do so through the committees and public hearings about topics. 

Board member Jill Olson said their agendas allow community members to voice their opinions, which will facilitate more board and committee discussion about a decision or topic that affects the community. 

Every topic the board discussed was aimed at strengthening their internal communication and understanding how to achieve the goals of their strategic plan.

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