The Board’s Buy-in to Baldrige

by Terry Holliday

Without the support of the board of education, no superintendent is able to create lasting change in a school system. In addition, one’s tenure as superintendent will not likely extend beyond the contract’s initial term.

One bright spot in our school district’s story is the leadership of the seven-member school board. Throughout the seven years of our journey toward national Malcolm Baldrige recognition, our board was led by the same visionary chair. He’s in the medical profession and understands how systems work and the need for continuous improvement. Education and health care have many similarities and many education and health care organizations use the criteria of the Baldrige National Quality Program.

The board of education modeled what they expected from schools and leaders. The board members were the first team to use a systems check based on the Baldrige criteria. They were the first in our school system to develop a Baldrige chart, showing the system components for the successful operation of the board of education. They were the first team to apply the results of their systems check and annual survey to develop their own improvement plan.

The school board was heavily engaged at the end of the first year in reviewing the performance of the school system and defining strategic priorities and strategic goals that would drive the school system through the district’s strategic plan. However, the key work of the board was in defining clear vision, mission and values statements for the school system. Our board of education wanted to drive the system toward success for all children with a vision of becoming a Top 10 performing school system in North Carolina.

Over the course of seven years, this strong alignment from the board level to the student level has produced outstanding learning results for children and helped more children graduate from high school ready to succeed at the next level. While the road has not been without bumps, it’s an honor to work in such an outstanding school system that truly exhibits the core value of focusing on student learning by creating learning-centered schools and classrooms.