How one district benefits from using a board management solution

Five key gains an Iowa district has made by investing in a board management platform, according to the superintendent
By: | October 14, 2020
Photo by Drew Beamer via Unsplash.

Gathering documents and making them into presentations that board members can review and learn from is a very important aspect of running a school board. Because members aren’t full-time administrators—and most have their own careers outside of school—they need digestible, easy-to-access information that helps them make good decisions.

Kenneth Slater is superintendent of schools at River Valley Community School District in Washta, Iowa.

For years, we used Google Docs to assemble the documentation and share it with board members. It was a cumbersome process that I disliked using. I’m sure other district administrators can relate to the traditional option based on gathering the docs, printing them all out, binding them together, and then physically distributing them prior to board meetings.

One of our biggest problems was the inability to search across all of our documents. When we used email and Google Docs to manage this process, for example, we had to search through multiple different files and formats in order to find what we were looking for. Also, with no central repository to work from, there was no way to collaborate or share updated documents without having to start from square one (e.g., start a new Google Doc).

In search of a better approach

Fed up with our system, a few years ago we went in search of a more modern approach. We looked for a full package that not only addressed the above challenges, but also included different modules that would work together to create one streamlined process for our board management.

We found the answer to our problems in a new board management platform and have been using it ever since. Because the Iowa School Board Association uses the same platform to manage its meetings, I can see how other superintendents orchestrate those events, borrow their best practices, and then use them to develop our system.

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Here are five ways we use our board management platform to conduct our pre- and post-meeting activities:

  1. Searching files. All of our information is tagged and searchable in the system. Everything is in one place and tied right into our website. It’s easy for staff members to visit the site and get what they need.
  2. Multiple different uses. Along with using the platform for our board meetings, both of our district administrators use it for their building-level team meetings. We also use it for our district-level team meetings. Next week, for example, we have a big meeting on Return to Learn with a large group. The platform gets a lot of use.
  3. Advanced planning. When we go into a board retreat and starting establishing our goals for the next school year, we’ll be using our board management platform to help build that strategic plan. For example, our Return to Learn has been a way to dip into the planning without having to go through the whole process across the entire year, so right now we’re seeing how that works and going forward from there.
  4. One place for everything. When you introduce anything new there’s always a cultural shift that has to happen at the administrative level. The learning curve was pretty short with Simbli. When our principals saw the way the platform gathers and presents information—and how easy it was to add their respective contributions—they caught on pretty quickly. They really liked having a central repository for all of their meetings. And our board really likes how the information being presented was so much slicker than Google Docs. It would never want to go back at this point.
  5.  Supporting a COVID pivot. To adapt to the COVID world, we’re now leveraging our board management platform’s Zoom meeting integration. We’re just getting started with this capability, but it’s gone very well so far.

It’s a no-brainer

Our board management platform seems to be made specifically for superintendents and boards, which made taking this route a no-brainer for us. Since we implemented the platform, it’s taken a lot work off our hands and made it much easier for our board to use and share information. If you want to share your story and what you are trying to accomplish at your school, this is a great way to go. You can use PPEL dollars for it (to help mitigate the costs) and your board members will love you for it.

Kenneth Slater is superintendent of schools at River Valley Community School District in Washta, Iowa. He uses Simbli board management software.

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