Register Now for WSSDA’s Latest Interactive Training

Local school board members and superintendents are invited to join WSSDA’s newest learning experience to become aware of two key types of disparity: educational opportunity and educational outcomes. Participants will explore what those are, how to detect them, and how they may be related.

If you’re a recently elected or appointed director, this would be a great opportunity for you to meet the initial professional development requirement that is needed within two years of taking office.

Discovering Education Disparities, the 5th and newest learning experience in the WSSDA equity series, will take place on July 16th, 2024, at the WSSDA’s headquarters in Olympia. Refreshments and cookies will be provided.

Top Three Principles of School Board Success

Recently, I spoke with a researcher who was writing a book on school board leadership. She asked me the top three things I wished all school board members knew. For a moment, I didn’t know where to begin. School directors are faced with so many competing priorities that it feels impossible to come up with only three things to help them succeed in all or even most situations.

But, being challenged to choose so few helped me unearth those that are the most foundational. With 19 years of serving on a school board and more than a decade of working with boards as a trainer and a consultant, here are the three things I urge every school director to take to heart.

First and foremost, it’s essential to recognize that school boards have a profound and lasting impact on student outcomes. This is not a mere assertion, but a statement backed by almost two decades of research. The attitudes, beliefs, and actions of school boards shape the trajectory of their students’ lives, often in ways that may not be immediately apparent but can reverberate for decades within a district. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider the legacy you want your board to leave and act accordingly.

Secondly, it’s imperative to understand that a board that primarily focuses on adult issues is failing its students. A truly effective school board is one that maintains a disciplined focus on the factors that either support or hinder students’ success. This requires unwavering resolve and persistence, especially when the loudest voices you hear are from adults. Therefore, it’s essential to actively seek out students and listen to their perspectives.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that students are observant. They take note of how they are treated and how board members interact with each other. They perceive what the board prioritizes and whether it listens and responds respectfully to diverse viewpoints. Your words and actions, even your demeanor during a school tour, all serve as a model for the district. Consider if you are embodying the behavior that you hope your students will emulate.

School directors get pulled in a million directions by constituents, school staff, and sometimes even politics, but centering yourself on the things that are shown to impact student success can keep you grounded in doing the right work. If you’re not sure what those things are, then look no further than the research-based Washington School Board Standards and any of the trainings and supports offered by WSSDA. And when faced with those loud adult voices pulling you off your primary mission of serving students, it’s okay to say, “I appreciate your input, and I’ll keep it in mind as we focus on the board’s core work.

Written by WSSDA Director of Leadership Development Tricia Lubach, this article was first appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of WSSDA Direct. Visit wssda.org/direct to see all the latest issues of WSSDA’s newsmagazine.

WSSDA Produces New Education Funding FAQ

The Washington school funding system is complex, and many previous attempts to explain it are lengthy and time-consuming to read. WSSDA designed this resource to answer some of the most common questions in a simple, accessible, and easy-to-navigate way. Inside this 32-page booklet, you’ll find answers to 36 frequently asked questions. The booklet also has colorful, explanatory graphics that you can use as stand-alone resources for distribution.

Maximizing Your Board’s Effectiveness: WSSDA’s Toolkit for Summer Success

During summer, school is out, but board development is in! It’s similar to legislative advocacy; when the legislative session is over, everyone goes home, but that’s when most of the groundwork is laid to prepare for the next session.

This summer, spend some time working together to improve your board’s practice. Veteran board members and WSSDA tools are here to help your team take proven steps to maximize your board’s effectiveness.

A Formula for Success

The formula is simple. Your board needs to assess itself, examine data on your district’s student success, identify board practices that are research-proven to have the biggest impact on the student outcomes, and set goals.

The Toolkit

Fortunately, WSSDA provides a toolkit to help boards carry out the formula. Step one is assessing the board’s work. For free, every board in Washington state can use WSSDA’s online board self-assessment survey, which is based on the Washington School Board Standards. The anonymous online survey takes less than 20 minutes for each board member to complete. This tool will help show where your board is in alignment and where it might want to do some work. If taken annually, the survey results can show you’ve progressed or changed over time.

“The extensive reports based on our responses for the current year while also looking at the trend in prior years, help us identify where we are working as a strong team, as well as areas where we want to set goals for our own continuous improvement in service to our students,” said Yakima Superintendent Trevor Greene.

You can take the survey results and work with them internally, or you can request an experienced facilitator from WSSDA to help your team interpret the results and begin formulating a plan of action. “The skilled facilitation provided by WSSDA during a 3-hour work session allowed us to have conversations that the board-superintendent team rarely has” continued Greene. “Reflection on our own practices and their alignment with our district’s strategic plan are an important tool to support our strategic plan with a strong governance team.”

The next item in your WSSDA toolkit is a workshop or retreat facilitated by WSSDA’s leadership development staff and consultants, many of whom are former or current school board members. WSSDA’s skilled facilitators come to your district to cover the topics most important to your board-superintendent team. They custom-design the content to meet your needs and goals. Most in-district workshops are three hours and can be done in a board work session format. Retreats are bit longer ranging from half a day to a full day.

Another tool to maximize board effectiveness is OnBoard. OnBoard is a professional learning system for school directors developed by WSSDA. Onboard courses are offered virtually and in-person throughout the year and at the WSSDA Annual Conference. These courses equip directors with critical knowledge in a variety of areas like school finances or budgeting and enable directors to meet legislated learning requirements about educational equity. Five OnBoard courses will be offered in person at the November WSSDA Annual Conference.

Finally, WSSDA’s New Director Network provides monthly webinars on different topics along with relevant resources. Whether you’re a new board member or simply looking to brush up, you’re welcome to join. Each lunchtime webinar is recorded for later viewing if you miss one.

Invest in Your Own Growth

In harnessing the wealth of resources provided by WSSDA, from the comprehensive self-assessment survey to tailored workshops and a virtual and in-person learning platform like OnBoard, school boards possess the means to embark on a transformative journey of self-improvement. And summer is an opportune time to do it. Let’s seize this opportunity to invest in our collective growth, ensuring that our boards emerge stronger, more effective, and better equipped to navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Reach out to WSSDA’s Leadership Development staff to learn more.

NOTE: This article was first published in the Spring 2024 issue of WSSDA Direct. Visit wssda.org/direct to see all the latest issues of WSSDA’s newsmagazine.

WSSDA Welcomes Two New Staff Members

Heather Curl and Christine Geary

On June 17th, the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA) had two new staff members begin work. Heather Curl started a new position for WSSDA as a leadership development specialist, while Christine Geary succeeded Abigail Westbrook as director of policy and legal services. 

Christine Geary, J.D.
Director of Policy and Legal Services

Christine Geary began her career in the K-12 classroom and, throughout her thirty-year career in law, has remained true to her passion— the education of our children. She has been involved in K-12 in multiple ways, from classroom teaching (English) to district-level administration and even as principal of a small early-childhood school. She has been a featured speaker at the state and national level with programs on issues relating to student safety across our diverse states and school districts. In addition to her Juris Doctor degree, Geary earned a Master of Arts in Education, Curriculum, and Instruction.

Some of her primary duties for WSSDA will be providing legal support to the WSSDA Board of Directors, Executive Director, all WSSDA Committees, and all WSSDA departments; guiding the revision and/or development of model policies, procedures, and forms; developing and approving content for WSSDA’s Policy & Legal News quarterly magazine; and developing and updates legal resources, and guides for school boards.

“I am grateful to have this opportunity to work with and serve the individuals who give so much of themselves to our students through their work on school boards,” said Geary.  “I look forward to collaboration with all our members.”

Heather Curl, Ed.D.,
Leadership Development Specialist

The second new hire is Heather Curl, Ed.D. She comes to WSSDA with several years of experience working in the domain of adult education. In addition to teaching courses in equity, policy, leadership, change, pedagogy, curriculum design and research, she has experience teaching English and social studies in K-12 educational institutions. 

Curl has published on a variety of topics in education, including student and teacher leadership, social mobility, and theories of change. To her new role, she brings a passion for civic dialogue, student voice, adult learning, and constructivist pedagogy (where instructors encourage students to build their own knowledge through experiences and activities instead of being lectured on abstract concepts). But Curl also relishes the daily opportunity to learn something new and grow. She holds a M.S.Ed. and Ed.D. in Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum from the University of Pennsylvania. 

The bulk of her responsibilities at WSSDA are to identify the professional learning needs of school directors, design ways to meet those needs, evaluate the efficacy of WSSDA’s tools and techniques for meeting those needs, and to continuously improve them.

“I am thrilled to be joining WSSDA,” said Curl. “I am excited to support the important work school boards do in Washington state and to work with an amazing set of professionals committed to student learning and positive educational opportunities and outcomes.”