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Why Write About Boardsmanship?

By Gary Lister

Why should you read this book?  The publication of a “how-to” manual is an enterprise fraught with opportunities for failure.  The intended audience may not need or want a printed guide.  Incorrect, outdated, or useless information may be published.  The target audience may not be aware of the effort.  The Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) has brilliantly avoided all of these potential problems and obstacles.

School boards across the state (and nation) have long clamored for copies of the out-of-print “little black book” that is this manual’s predecessor.  I heard constant praise for that volume’s timeliness and usefulness.  Most of us want and need a handy guide as questions arise while we’re working to fulfill our responsibilities to our stakeholders.  And while the yeomen (and women) at GSBA are often boards’ first choice “go to” contacts for information, GSBA took extra efforts to insure this publication was timely, relevant, and accurate.  Focus groups included current and past board members and other knowledgeable participants.

GSBA asked the right questions, beginning with, “What would you like to see in your boardsmanship manual?”  That crucial interaction continued throughout the process of crafting this book.  You, the school boards of Georgia, were represented by members from small boards and large boards, urban boards and rural boards, novice boards and veteran boards. You hold in your hands a collaborative effort that should both provide a quick reference guide to most of your immediate questions and facilitate in-depth research on complex issues.

As a rookie board member, I was amazed at the long shelf life of the last publication.  I heard story after story about its utility; it was small enough to fit in purses and briefcases, it was well documented and provided authoritative proof to “show me” stakeholders, it was well organized and one could quickly find answers – even while distracted by the tension we all sometimes find in the board room.  A constantly reoccurring theme was, “Make a manual just like the old one – only updated.”

GSBA and their boardsmanship manual team did better than that – they took the best of the old (including good examples from other states), refreshed it  and made it current with added information, examples, utilities, and policies developed since the 1996 publication. What you hold in your hands is designed to serve you and to help you be a better board member.  You – the members of Georgia school boards and the students we serve – are the impetus for this book.  I am honored to have been a part of this and I know I speak for GSBA, the focus group participants, and all the other team members when I say we hope that you enjoy it and find it useful.

Happy Boardsmanship,

Gary Lister
Chairman (2006), Bleckley County Board of Education, and author of several publications and articles on serving on a school board