A word from Victoria I.S.D. Superintendent Quintin Shepherd

Closing thoughts: A working board

The following is an article provided by Supt. Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.

There are many types of boards, and not all serve the same purpose. I’m not talking about goals, of course not all boards have the same goals. I am talking about what it means to be on that board. What is the purpose of the board itself? Not a question of the purpose of the organization it serves, but the purpose of the board? Sometimes, you might find yourself as part of a social board. These boards have meetings and agendas, and there is a distinct focus on socializing as part of the board meeting. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the corporate boards or working boards. The further a board is to the corporate experience, there is typically less focus there on socializing because there is much work to be done. Nearly all boards are somewhere on this continuum with some work and some socializing, but usually a board will lean one way or the other. Many of you have probably served on a board at some point in your life, whether a PTO board, civic board, social cause board, educational board, or church board to name but a few. Think back on some of those experiences and you’ll quickly be able to recall whether these felt more social or working. Let me be clear, one is not better than the other. I couldn’t care less about judging one as good and the other as bad. I think the better way to frame the question is to ask, “what does it do?” The work of the board serves a function. That is the answer to what does it do? If the function is to bring like-minded people together to socialize in a safe and friendly environment, it allows for creative conversations, idea generation, and networking. That is an important function that needs to occur through socializing. However, if the function is to make something happen and outcome driven, this also answers the question of “what does it do”?

I have sat on countless boards, and each is unique in how they approach this balance between corporate and social experiences. Some are very purposeful and explain ‘the work’ at orientation or even before. Some are less direct, and you simply learn how they operate over time once you are involved. For any of you who haven’t had the opportunity to serve on many boards yet, I encourage you to think about serving and what type of board you might be interested in serving on. Every board I have ever belonged to is always looking for new people who are interested in joining and each has been very rewarding. In our own community, there are many, many boards that could use your support. It is perfectly normal to feel nervous about joining and not sure how you will contribute, but you will always be warmly welcomed and find your spot. Recently, I joined the Victoria Bach Festival board, and even after all these years I had those initial feelings.

I’d like to share just a bit of information about the working board that is your Victoria ISD Board of Trustees from the past few weeks. Many of your board members took off from work and invested a weekend of their time a few weeks ago to attend the TASA/TASB annual conference. This three-day conference (FridaySunday) is jam packed with countless sessions starting at 7:30 a.m. and running late into the afternoon and evening. Your Trustees coordinate which sessions they plan to attend so that “the board” as a body can learn as much as possible in a short time. This helps us grow, learn, and stay on a path of continuous improvement as a district.

Of course, the Trustees work hard to prepare for each monthly meeting as part of their board service. Preparing for the board meeting requires them to review a packet that is usually around a hundred or so pages. The administration report of work happening throughout the district is usually 30-40 pages as well. All this work is done in preparation for the board meeting and then, of course, they show up to the board meeting to do the work. We try hard to focus our board meetings on student learning and issues that are complex in nature. Beyond the regular board meetings, the Trustees occasionally have Board Work Sessions as well. These are meetings where we take no official action but carve out time for a deeper discussion than can practically occur at a regular board meeting.

Make no mistake, the Victoria ISD Board of Trustees is a working board, and their work is paying huge dividends for our community, our staff, and our students. In the past year, we have lowered the tax rate to the lowest level in nearly 30 years, staff have received regular and substantial increases in pay, and student achievement and growth scores have largely improved. Our community is indeed reaping the benefit of the hard work of the VISD Board of Trustees!

By Supt. Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.