Celebrating your School Board
School Board Appreciation Month is in January in my state (and many others). Some school districts celebrate School Board Appreciation Week. Regardless of when you celebrate this important recognition, there are easy and meaningful ways to say "Thank you!" to your school or district's school board.
The important role of the School Board
School boards have an intimate role in nearly every facet of schools, even though they may seem only distantly connected to the day-to-day operations. The longer I've worked in schools (both private and public), the more I've come to appreciate and understand their challenging and essential role for our students and staff. I can't think of a single element of my day-to-day life as a principal that doesn't tie back to the work of our school board.
Members of the school board, at least in my region, are elected officials who run for office, much like a candidate for any other political position. My school board members serve this role for 4 years without earning any salary or compensation for their hard work and dedicated time. They campaign, speak, promote, and tour our region in order to gain trust and familiarity with their constituents. Earning the title "School Board Director" is something for which to feel very proud - after all, they earn it through dedication and hard work.
The challenges of being a School Board member
The role of being a school board director has always been challenging, whether because of the time commitment or for the difficult decisions and hard work they put in. School Board members serve on committees that are intricately involved in all things that happen for the district or school - Finance Committees, Policy, Hiring and Personnel, and supervising the Superintendent.
In addition, they run meetings (often public with forums and publicity), and navigate the media inquiries that surround their hard work.
In recent years, the pressures placed upon the School Board member has shifted dramatically. School boards have operated at status quo for a long time, with sometimes very few visitors to meetings and relatively uncontentious work being done.
However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and society's embracing equity for students, staff, and families, School Board members have seen a dramatic shift in their experiences. One doesn't have to scroll far in the news today to see articles about school boards and their members who are on center stage for their choices and decisions. School around the world have become Ground Zero for ideological debates. Families' values are more pronounced than ever in our schools today.
Therefore, School Board Appreciation Month is an excellent time to do meaningful things to say "thank you" and "we see and appreciate you."
These FIVE meaningful actions will hopefully inspire you and your school to show your gratitude for School Board Appreciation Month.
1) Host your School Board for Brunch/Luncheon and a Student Showcase
I previously served as Assistant Principal at a comprehensive high school. We were fortunate to have a Career and Technical Education program, Culinary Arts, that attracted hundreds of students to our high school each year, and produced career-ready high school graduates. This CTE program often took center stage for great celebrations in our school and community.
Our students, under the direction of a professional chef-turned-teacher, created meals to rival that of top restaurants in our region. From front-of-the-house decor to the lost crumb on the plate, these students consistently impressed their guests. It was always a proud day when our Culinary classes were cooking for others.
Invite your School Board for a luncheon, brunch, or brief event with food. Welcome your superintendent and any school district directors, too.
If you have a program within your school or district that can create food, great! Let this type of event serve as a showcase for your School Board. Otherwise, consider having small snacks catered and put the focus on your students.
Regardless of what you serve, invite students from each grade level or different programs to highlight the tremendous learning that's happening at your school. The School Board is always looking to know more about what's happening in schools. Show them, tell them, invite them - and consider feeding them!
2) Bring a Live Thank You Message to a School Board Meeting
There's nothing more inspiring than a student message at a School Board Meeting. In fact, every month I choose two students who attend the meeting with me and share the latest of what's happening at our middle school. (Fortunately, the meetings are virtual right now which makes transportation much easier for my students of this age group.)
How do students know what to say? Well, the days prior to the School Board meeting, I work with my students on shared Google Doc to draft their message with a simple template: tell the School Board what happened since their last meeting, what's going on right now at our school, and what we're looking forward to.
During School Board Appreciation Month, the message is different. Students talk about the things that they love in our school - what makes our school a great place to learn and to work (for staff). Once students are finished sharing, consider (as principal) taking a moment to expand on this, and relate it to those School Board-related actions that you see.
For example, if my students say that they love their teachers, I thank the School Board for their work around hiring practices and setting policy that attracts top-notch candidates to our school. I thank them for making our school district a competitive force in regional schools.
A visit to a school board meeting to say a heart-felt "Thank You!" is a great way to celebrate School Board Appreciation Month. Public Comment (which is when students often share) is often at the beginning of the meeting. This means that the majority of the attendees are there, too, making this a very public appreciation.
3) School Swag
School Board members are ambassadors for our great organization. As Principal, I'm intimately responsible for my school's branding and image. (For ideas on how to master that community image, check out these resources.)
I love to give our School Board members gear from my school! Lanyards, T-Shirts, hoodies, ball caps, logo pens and pencils, coffee mugs. I'm not sure what happens to them but I like to believe that those hoodies get worn to the grocery store and family gatherings.
My favorite gift to give is an embroidered shirt ~ one with my school's logo on the lapel that is classy and professional.
I like to buy really comfortable, classy clothing that I know they'll be proud to wear. Your school board secretary can perhaps help you with sizes for each member. Swag is a great way to celebrate School Board Appreciation Month.
4) Virtual Thank You Card
Check out my detailed step-by-step instructions for creating personal, meaningful Virtual Thank You Cards. This is a relatively easy project, especially for one of your secretaries to help facilitate.
5) Student and Staff-featured Thank You Video
Finally, one of the best ways to say "Thank You!" during School Board Appreciation Month is to create a video montage specific for the School Board.
I like to use Canva.com and WeVideo.com for all of my media needs. You can get Canva Pro free for 30 days by clicking the link. WeVideo is a user-friendly video editing software that is a staple in our school, next to the Pro version of Canva.
A gift like a Thank You video provides flexibility for the School Board Members - you can email them a digital link so they can watch it on their own time, and savor the appreciation in private or as a small group.
Celebrating School Board Appreciation Month
Share your ideas in the comments below of how you and your school are celebrating School Board Appreciation Week or Month. We can all learn from one another's brilliant ideas ~ to thank a group that gives so much for our students and community.