January 2023 – Superintendents Leadership Council

The latest edition of Hanover’s Superintendents Leadership Council, co-hosted with the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA), Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators (MASA), and Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) was held on Thursday, January 19th and structured in a Q&A format that focused primarily on Building Strong Lasting Relationships with Your Board.
Join us for March’s Superintendents Leadership Council on Thursday, March 30th at 11:30am ET which will focus on Marketing and Advocating for Your District within the Community.


Schedule a standing, reoccurring meeting with each board member at least once a month

  • Establish authentic connections in an informal setting.
    • Spend intentional time with board members to build relationships and establish trust. During meetings, work to understand each board member’s “why” for their work on the school board and within their larger community. Conversations can also work to disarm board members as you build a greater mutual understanding of your personal and professional lives and backgrounds. Consider keeping a running list or file on each board member to recall family details, milestones, and interests.
  • Ensure that all board members receive equal attention and consider the optics.
    • Customize each meeting to individual board member preferences, while ensuring that meetings are roughly equivalent. Variations may include time of day, day of week, and location of meetings (e.g., determine if a meal is preferred for a meeting time, and if so which meal works best in their daily schedule). Prioritize keeping each standing meeting and avoid rescheduling or skipping meetings.
    • Budgeting varies by district, however all consider the potential optics for spending. Assume that spending on relationship-building activities will be public knowledge. Budget options include using or establishing a superintendent discretionary fund which may be funded by donations from local community or written into the district budget. For larger meetings and retreats, consider utilizing school district facilities or private homes.

Establish protocols for how you will communicate with board members to ensure transparency and equal access.

  • Ensure that all board members have the same information at the same time.
    • Many superintendents use a weekly update e-mail for formal communication with board members.  Superintendents should also establish protocols for how to communicate critical or time-sensitive information outside of their weekly update. For example, if text messaging is necessary, ensure that all board members receive the same message at the same time.
    • Sometimes informal conversations and questions may begin with one board member but are relevant to all board members.  Consider when you should include all board members on answers to questions raised by an individual board member. If one board member is asking the question, assume that others may also have the same question. This practice builds trust and ensures that all board members have access to the same information.

Take extra care in building relationships with new board members and those with specific, potentially fixed, platforms.

  • When you struggle to gain trust of a board member, focus on establishing a shared vision for the school district.
    • You may not be successful in establishing a trusting relationship with each board member given outside factors. Recognize that that some board members may come into the board with a platform or agenda that conflicts with past board decisions or priorities. Shift the focus and conversation towards understanding their intentions and goals and helping them to feel a part of the work of the school district and school board. Involve all board members in vision setting for your work together.
  • Lead activities that help new board members understand their role in the governance process.
    • Book studies are a valuable tool for building relationships while also educating new board members. Book study themes may include general governance, trust, leadership, and emotional intelligence. Book study titles noted in the SLC include:
      • The Governance Core: School Boards, Superintendents, and Schools Working Together By Davis W. Campbell and Michael Fullan
      • The Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer For Building Trust at Work By Charles Feltman
      • The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything By Stephen M.R. Covey with Rebecca R. Merrill
      • The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World By Jon Gordon
      • The Way of the Shepherd: Seven Secrets to Managing Productive People By Kevin Leman and Bill Pentak


Download the recording today!

Total Runtime: 59:43

Speakers include:

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Hanover’s monthly meetings are valuable, convenient, and instructive. I gain wisdom and support from the field every time I join. To hear from authentic, humble, and successful superintendents is critical as we continue to "muddle through" this challenging time. We gain strength from collective commitment and communication about the challenges, solutions, and questions.

Dr. Mary Templeton, Superintendent, Washougal School District

Strategies for Building Trust and Relationships with Board Members

Schedule a standing, reoccurring meeting with each board member at least once a month

Establish protocols for how you will communicate with board members to ensure transparency and equal access

Take extra care in building relationships with new board members and those with specific, potentially fixed, platforms

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