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Hardest Lessons



Experienced board members from across the nation were asked to identify the most difficult lesson or fact they had to learn about board service. Here’s what they said most often.


  • Learning to acknowledge publicly that you have no power and authority as an individual board member; that only the board as a whole can make policies and decisions for the school district.
  • Determining what your function is on the board and how to accomplish it effectively.
  • That no matter what you think you know about board service when you first come on board, you still have a lot to learn.
  • Recognizing the difference between setting policy (the board’s job) and administering the schools (the superintendent’s job).
  • That you must represent all the students. Your decisions must be made in the interest of the total school system and not made solely for special groups or interests.
  • Learning how to respond to the complaints and concerns of citizens, school administrators, and other staff.
  • That change comes slowly.
  • That you can’t solve everyone’s problems by yourself.
  • That you must think deeply and sometimes accept a reality that is contrary to your own beliefs.
  • That elective board service means being able to hold the minority viewpoint when voting on a given issue, then openly supporting the majority vote of the board in your community.
  • Discovering how the schools are funded.
  • That the primary focus of all board decisions must be student achievement.