Top Tips for School Boards Heading into 2021 to 2022

Your school district just wrapped up a whirlwind school year. Students completed classes both in the classroom and from dining room tables, teachers drew on boundless creativity to design Google Classrooms, and local infection rates were closely monitored.

As a school board, you’re tasked with setting a vision for your district. You outline practical guidelines for the operations of each school and have a major impact on students’ day-to-day experiences. This includes the buildings they sit within, the physical and digital resources they use, the curriculums they learn from, and more.

Now, though the year has only recently ended, it’s time to start planning for the 2021-2022 academic year. Whether questions of in-person versus hybrid learning, classroom capacity and mask-wearing, or any curriculum development needed to address gaps unveiled in the last year, there are many unknowns about the coming school year.

Unlike last year, your board has the gift of time and awareness to make this year go more smoothly than the last— rather than pivoting to homebound education overnight, you have all summer to prepare for uncertainty surrounding the upcoming school year.

Using our experience working with education professionals, we’re going to cover efforts that you as the school board can take today to set your district up for success in the coming school year.

Let’s get started.

Optimize Your School Board Meetings

As a school board, the best place to start when it comes to setting your district up for success is within your own ranks. Hosting more impactful and efficient school board meetings in the 2021-2022 school year will set a strong foundation for the decisions your board will need to make throughout the year.

School board meetings are unique in that many are held publicly, with parents, teachers, and students welcome to join. During these meetings, your board discusses, hears testimonies, and casts votes that can have a direct impact on instructors and students alike.

Consider these tips to run board meetings that are both engaging and productive:

  • Create an organized agenda that covers crucial discussion items and share it with board members and the general public prior to the meeting itself.
  • Ask thought-provoking questions to encourage discussion among board members.
  • Set aside a dedicated portion of the meeting for community response and allow student guardians, teachers, and other involved parties to speak.
  • Add a “Parking Lot” to the agenda for any items that arise outside of the prepared schedule and aim to discuss those items in future meetings.
  • Keep routine tasks, such as voting on non-controversial motions, short and to-the-point.
  • Share the meeting minutes and any action items with board members and the general public.

While it may seem like much of this depends on the discipline of your board and the public to stay on task, there are steps that you can take to prevent both parties from going astray. For example, you can invest in software to improve the organization of your meetings. The right board management software can improve the process of creating an agenda, recording minutes, broadcasting meetings, sharing documents, and following up on action items by bringing these efforts into one cohesive platform.

Just as preparation is the key to setting your board up for success, thoughtful planning is what will empower your instructors to reach greater heights in the coming school year.

Set Instructors Up For Success

While many teachers handled the 2020-2021 school year with grace, there’s no denying that it was a stressful experience for your instructors. Luckily, there are a few steps that you can take heading into the school year to alleviate some of that stress.

To start, be sure to equip classrooms across your county with effective learning resources. One lesson from 2020 is that students can adapt to technology and technology-driven course materials are more effective than many may have realized in years past. Research on instructional design trends shows us that this use of technology isn’t going away anytime soon — if anything, students are going to expect a tech-fueled experience going forward.

As students head back into classrooms, we recommend investing in digital course materials as opposed to physical textbooks. This Skyepack guide defines digital course materials as “any kind of instructional material that can be accessed through a computer or mobile device.” While you could invest in a digital textbook or open educational resource, we recommend turning to custom-curated digital course materials that are created for the specific courses taught in your district.

Custom digital course materials come with the following benefits for teachers and students alike:

  • Convenience: These materials can be accessed whether students are in-person or at home. If your district needs to pivot back to home-based learning or a hybrid model, your students’ instruction won’t be interrupted.

  • Engagement: Through embedded assessments, interactive elements, audio and video, and even animations, there are a variety of elements that can be added to engage students. Even if a student is learning remotely, your instructors will be able to maintain their attention.

  • Flexibility: Your instructors have little input into the information in textbooks created by large publishing companies. However, with custom digital course materials, their educational resources can be curated to match their plan for the course. Teachers who have taught the same course for many years likely changed their plans to adapt to last year and are likely doing so again now. With custom materials, their educational resources are still relevant.

Beyond moving to digital course materials, consider the following tips to help instructors as they head into the new school year:

  • Communicate norms to parents and teachers across your district. For example, communicate that during certain hours after the school day, teachers will not be checking their inboxes. This helps instructors maintain a strong work/life balance even when the lines tend to get blurred.

  • Establish grading grace periods. While it is important that assignments are graded in a timely manner, the transition to hybrid or back to in-person learning may cause a backup. Anticipate this by establishing grading grace periods for teachers, eliminating the pressure of needing to grade immediately.

  • Pare down non-instructional activities. Many teachers in your district are likely doing unpaid, non-instructional activities such as coaching sports teams, overseeing club activities, or even serving as hall monitors. Look for ways to cut back on these activities— at least until schools in your district regain some normalcy. Many teachers are likely dedicating additional time to hybrid learning initiatives and would appreciate any time they can get back.

The challenges of the 2020-2021 school year caused an employee recruitment and retention crisis for many school districts. With the above tips, your school board can directly combat that trend and make your instructors’ working environments more positive.

Now that school’s out, your school board has plenty of time to begin preparing for the next year. By optimizing your school board meetings and taking small steps to set instructors up for success, your district will be well prepared for any curve balls thrown your way. Good luck!

Skyepack's Austin Bates knows how school boards can grow their impact. Author: Austin Bates – Director of Operations & Instructional Design

Born and raised in Texas, Austin learned at an early age the importance of dedication to a craft. During his Masters pursuit at Texas A&M University in Educational Technology, Austin began to question “Why not create better ways to teach in the online environment?” Skyepack soon became his catalyst for this new paradigm in online instruction. He is valued for his abilities to plan course designs, implement powerful teaching technology, and execute daily production assignments. In his spare time, Austin enjoys biking, watching football, and making every minute count.


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