Book Review

Effective School Boards

Reviewed by Audie Waltmon,
Associate Superintendent, Castleberry Independent School District,
Fort Worth, Texas


School boards that know their governance roles and responsibilities and adhere to them tend to meet their community's expectations and provide guidance and support to the school district's instructional program and other operations. The questions are: What does an effective school board look like and how can a board become more effective?

These are the two questions addressed in Effective School Boards by Eugene Smoley Jr., a senior fellow with the Cheswick Center in Rockville, Md. Smoley provides a practical guide for superintendents and boards interested in improving or clarifying the roles of board members.

The guide begins by citing three reasons school boards fail and the six most common mistakes of school boards. He addresses these through a model of board effectiveness, which he developed. It describes six actions that boards can take to become more effective.

The book's most beneficial section includes a board self-assessment questionnaire along with an explanation on its scoring. The results of the assessment can be used as a basis for a board retreat. This section includes a sample retreat agenda and a feasible schedule for a two-day retreat.

While Smoley discusses core values amongst board members, he spends little time discussing core values between the board and superintendent.

(Effective School Boards, by Eugene Smoley Jr., Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, Calif., 1999, 176 pp.)