By Schroeder, Kathleen
Momentum , Vol. 36, No. 1
Connecticut board shares ideas and solutions with local elementary schools
A highly effective board is a tremendous asset to any school. Many schools strive to establish such a board and many individuals are willing to volunteer their time and talent to serve, but they lack a clear plan as to how to get started.
How does a group of individuals move from the concept of a wellorganized, focused and supportive board to the reality of creating one for its own school? East Catholic High School (ECHS) in Manchester, Connecticut, recipient of the 2004 Outstanding Board Award from NCEA's National Association of Boards, Commissions and Councils of Catholic Education (NABCCCE), has made it one of its goals to assist other schools in the process.
"As part of our mission as a Catholic school, we are committed to supporting and nurturing area elementary schools in any way we can," said ECHS Board Chairman Greg Kane. "Some feeder schools in our area have expressed a desire to establish a school board to advise and assist them in specific areas of growth and development. Others have asked for tips in carrying out individual projects. As a board, we have made a concentrated effort to share the ideas and techniques that have given us positive results over the years. While each school is unique in many ways, there are common issues we all deal with. Sharing ideas and solutions helps us all to grow."
The ECHS board has extended itself to assist local elementary schools and parishes. The board chairperson hosted an evening open house and workshop for local school-board presidents and parish council chairpersons, focusing on ways the boards could support their schools. Emphasis was placed on the importance of developing a long-range plan. The program included presentations in specific areas of interest as well as an open forum for questions and sharing among all in attendance. The open house also provided an environment in which the elementary schools could express their precise needs. The process itself proved to be the perfect example of the ECHS board in action.
The ECHS board operates through a well-developed committee structure. Standing committees include finances, development, plant and facilities, recruitment and parents; ad hoc committees are academics and board membership. The total board is involved with long-range planning. All issues are heard by the full board, then assigned to a specific committee. "The committee structure is key to how we operate," said Mr. Kane. "Once an issue is brought to the table, it is referred to the specific committee with expertise in that area. After studying the issue, the committee will return to the full board with a proposal for action."
The open house for school board presidents and parish council chairpersons ran much the same way. As topics of interest were brought to the table, Mr. Kane referred them to the representatives of individual committees for input and discussion. Individual committee chairpersons then made themselves available as resources to the feeder schools, thus modeling the process of working in committee and developing a proposal for action.
In the area of recruitment, that chairperson fielded direct questions from the elementary schools. She shared her complete one-year plan for recruitment and retention and provided samples of timelines, visuals, ads and other recruitment materials. She also shared current initiatives in place to foster student retention. …