Book Review                                              Page 44 


How NOT to Be a Terrible

School Board Member   

Books How Not To Be


by Richard E. Mayer, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2011, 160 pp., $26.95 softcover

Richard Mayer has served on the board of education for the Goleta Union School District in Goleta, Calif., since 1981, which puts him in an ideal spot to comment on the foibles of school system governance. He has seen plenty of them over the years.

In How NOT to Be a Terrible School Board Member, Mayer, a professor of psychology at University of California at Santa Barbara, combines his research and writing skills with his keen observations of life on a local school board to create an anecdote-filled book that illustrates the importance of effective boardsmanship.

The book contains 28 short stories, which Mayer refers to as “terrible habits.” Each begins with his depiction of all-too-common situations: board members asking for special treatment from district staff, running their own community survey to support their position on a significant issue, coming to meetings unprepared and disrespecting a fellow board member.

Mayer then offers his “Plan B” options and explains why these are more appropriate actions for a board member. Each pithy chapter concludes with the author’s lesson learned by the board member and his suggestions for the superintendent for dealing with each situation.

This book is an effective learning tool for anyone involved in district governance. It could be used in new board member orientations, board retreats or book discussion groups involving the board and leadership team. 

Reviewed by Justin B. Henry, superintendent, Goddard, Kan.


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