May 8, 2013

Moving to a new "place" on internet...

The GreatGoverning blog is moving.

All past and future posts, pages and links are and will be here, at

About auto-emailing of postings:
  • All presidents, superintendents and board members of the Class of 2011 will soon receive your first auto email from the new blog site, no need to do anything.
  • Entire teams – Sorry, someone on your governing team will need to let us know about re-subscribing the team (just email Alan at OR teammates can self-subscribe at the bottom of the new second page
  • Everyone else – Sorry, in advance!  You can let us know at OR self-subscribe on page two

Quick highlights/links at the GreatGoverning site:
  • a series of tips and insights for possible/declared candidates
  • collection of frameworks and tools for appraising board and superintendent performance
  • collection of accountability committee frameworks
  • return of "eCafes," coffee conversations with leaders from around the state
Last note:
  • This site will remain viewable and searchable through June, then will be removed.

April 17, 2013

Haiku..on balance....

The art of balance,
natural for a beagle.
But what about you?

So, I've been home from work for a few days due to the snow and I've been paying attention to my two beagles. These critters live a balanced life. They know what's important and what's not. They act on the important (food), and don't act on what's not (anything that's not food). Anyway, that got me to thinking about school boards.

How's the balance in your board life? Have you identified the important and the unimportant? Surely, everything that comes the way of the board isn't important.

April 10, 2013

And the perfect candidate is....

Candidate season is fast approaching...well, maybe it's already here, and I want to know what you are thinking. I've got queries....posers. How do you think about potential new board members? Do you look for experience, and if so, what kind? Do they need to know how the district works? Do they need to be a parent, or retired teacher, or business person, or....what? Who is the perfect candidate?

Sometimes we might want them to be like us. Sometimes not. It depends, doesn't it, on how the district is doing and what the board make up already is. Do you think the board should reflect the make up of the community, or should it more reflect the make up of the organization? Do you work within your political party to find members, or do you look for interested persons elsewhere? Should this person be an extrovert or introvert? Should they be budget minded, or detail oriented, or does it matter?

April 3, 2013

Designing the BigConvening...

Designing and planning for the BigConvening went "all March Madness" at last week's gathering of board members, superintendents and other education leaders.

Using great basketball teams as a catalyst, CASB "Coaches of Excellence" used soloing, discussing and prioritizing elements as they addressed three continuous improvement areas:
  • Defensive coordinator - protecting what's wildly important (values, strengths, effective traditions...)
  • Scout coach - identifying and assessing challenges, developing matched-up content
  • Offensive coordinator - advancing, moving, reinventing, refreshing, winning

April 2, 2013

Aren't you concerned about.....

I learned a new term the other day..."Concern Troll"... during a discussion with one of my sons (while bonding over the engine of an old Mercedes...but that's not the point) about how school boards can sometimes lose focus on an issue. During discussion, someone will say "Should we be concerned about this possible concern....?". It could be brought up by a board member or someone else. Sometimes this type of "comment/question" can derail discussion and action. The key is in your approach to the stated concern.

March 27, 2013

5 links / WE, 191 and beyond...

Passionate about aligned, unified effort? Desire great teaming and networking? Hoping for powerful "WE not ME" systems of leadership? Can't wait for a new generation of collaborating and maximizing? Go, here, now, then have coffee with a trusted fellow leader, soon.

Frontline wisdom about new "191 work" abounds in a brief video at CDE's educator effectiveness website, here. Catch Moffat County superintendent Joe Petrone and others sharing insights about start--up challenges, ownership and the "right work."

Six minutes with "Fundamentals of Blended Learning" will help you envision and rethink HOW we can educate "21st Century style." Go here for the creative video by Education Elements.

Why It Takes More Than a Genius to Lead a School, is full of tremendous leadership insights for governing teams. Go, here to tap in. Hints of the content: "[M]ultipliers are leaders who look beyond their own genius and focus on extracting and extending the genius of others." / "A leader's greatest value comes not from having the answers but from having the right questions. The critical leadership skill of today is not personal knowledge but the ability to tap into the knowledge of others." / "The educational system needs multipliers right now especially when leaders must do more with less." 

Okay, four links!!

March 20, 2013

Spring haiku.....

Spring has sprung today,
And we all know what that means...
Learning continues.

It never stops. There is no moment in time when you can say "Okay, learning starts now." Or, "learning stops now". We all know these things, that learning flows and kids learn at different rates and kids have different needs and......on and on. We talk about this but we act like we don't know. We allow our districts to not keep up with what we know. How do we break this cycle and catch up to the 21st century?

Initiatives, I suppose. Someone needs to take initiative. I know the legislature throws a lot at districts,

March 19, 2013

Excellence in Prairie...

"Eight minutes with the board" was a memorable take away following a next-steps workshop with the Prairie board of learning/educating, yesterday.  Above,  the governing team listens to a teacher describe a typical day of aligned instructional leadership, challenges and engagement.

The effectiveness workshop featured a "rolling conversation" touching on strategic work, essential norms, wildly important focus, policy leadership, and constituent engagement (content list below). Next steps for this good-to-great team:  Refreshing the local framework for great governing and engaging CASB's policy team for a no-fee policy audit.

A "futuring" note:  Prairie excitement is widespread as daily construction and destruction continues with new learning facilities.  For a glimpse, go here.

March 15, 2013

Rappin' & TCAPin'...

Here's Salida grad Adrian Jiron helping his St. Vrain elementary class be refreshed, focused and enthusiastic about TCAP.  

"TCAP's in the building!"

March 13, 2013

The boomerang board member.....

Candidate season is coming up quick and that got me to thinking about boomerangs. Actually, spring got me to thinking about boomerangs, but I'm not going to quibble. Back to the topic, I'm wondering what you and your board do with "former" board members. Admittedly, many board members leave their respective boards and don't look back, but what do you do with those that just don't want to go away, the ones for whom the passion and excitement doesn't stop when they walk out that boardroom door, the ones who keep coming back around.....and around....and around....

March 12, 2013

Great governing by all...

Here's Mapleton president Norma Frank and an intent audience (including the entire Mapleton governing team) at this morning's treeeemendous State Board of Education meeting.

The simple agenda topic: Mapleton's request for a change in its accreditation rating from "priority improvement" to "improvement."

The ongoing, BIG topic: Continuous improvement to ensure that our accreditation system adequately affirms achievement work.

From immediate coverage through EdNewshere: "The case raises questions about how the system operates and also raises the larger issue of how poverty, language deficiencies and other academic risk factors should be weighed when district and school performance are evaluated and rated."

From Mapleton's appeal letter in the fall: “While we all agree that poverty must not predict the future for Colorado’s children, the impact on learning simply cannot be ignored. We cannot continue to pretend that socioeconomic differences, native language differences, school funding differences, mobility rates, teacher turnover rates, special education and parental involvement do not matter."

My takeaways from a memorable, solid meeting:
- Mature, civil discourse about our core work
- Powerful presentations by both Mapleton and CDE leaders
- Affirmation by all state board members and CDE staffers about the redesignING, restructurING and improvING efforts within Mapleton
- Honoring questions and comments from state board members
- Solid and respectFULL insights from CDE staff about the accreditation system and Mapleton's current status
- Effective facilitation by chair Paul Lundeen

Predictions: CDE will continue to lead with fully engaged core values of continuous improvement and accountability. WE will all discover new supports, assessments and investments needed for systems with the mix of high-mobility, high-poverty, high-language challenges.

March 3, 2013

BookClub: MetLife's survey of teachers...

A "book" study of a different kind, the just-released MetLife "Survey of The American Teacher," here, is full of major findings worth a local, comparative conversation:
  • Principals take responsibility for leadership of their schools
  • The job of principal is becoming more complex and stressful
  • Teachers take leadership in schools and think principals are doing a good job
  • The biggest challenges leaders face are beyond the capacity of schools alone to address

February 28, 2013

Designing the future...

MTBOCES chair Tim Stange (Buena Vista) extends a big hope.

Designing a refreshed/reinvented future was at the heart of the recent Mountain BOCES strategic "advance."

Highlights of the two-day retreat for the 11-system collaborative (districts and college):
  • Paradigm-busting stories and interaction during a Friday dinner, courtesy of BOCES execs from Kansas and Washington (engaging via an eNetColorado video link)
  • A Saturday filled with small group work to identify strengths of the current effort, hopes for a great future and ideas for next-level ways of doing business
  • A final large group discussion to discuss immediate next steps and affirm commitment to keeping the momentum with change/improvement

Quotes along the way:
  • "What is the future we want to build?"
  • "We need a paradigm shift from a deficit thinking model to an abundance mentality."
  • "Working together we can…"
  • "We need to set our shared effort to be the light on the front of the train, not the pooper scooper at the parade's end"Some of the best hopes" expressed as we appraised the effort:BOCES will become a “make-it-happen” organization

February 22, 2013

Broken links...

Thanks to CASB president-elect Jan Tanner (Colorado Springs), yesterday's link to the "dangerouslyirrelevant" post has been restored. Go, here, to catch three classic looks at the opposite of continuous improvement, "advancing excellence" and innovation.

Speaking of broken links: Constituent engagement is clearly one of our greatest challenges amid this "stress era" around strained resources and increasing expectations. How is your governing team strategically learning and linking with internal and external stakeholders?  Quick CASB assets:

February 21, 2013

Challenging stuckness...

After a rich, innovative conversation with the Keenesburg governing team, last night, I've just stumbled across a web asset for "advancing excellence" (the first two words in CASB's mission).

The "dangerouslyirrelevant" post, here, features stories about fleas, monkeys, crabs, and a great quote:
 "The challenge for us, however, is that we live in a time of significant disruption. As new information environments, economic realities, and learning landscapes form themselves before our very eyes, transitioning our school systems so that they are relevant for today and tomorrow, not just yesterday, is going to require gobs of innovation and experimentation. Yet we have schooling, policy, and leadership cultures that are extremely intolerant of risk-taking and, indeed, will vigorously intervene to reinforce static processes, mindsets, and behaviors."
For the classic "flea video," go here.

February 15, 2013

Power of CASB conferencing...

A "whole lotta shakin'" was going on before, during and after CASB's advocacy conference!  Nearly 150 leaders just finished a grand mix of one-on-one, small group and large group learning about...

State Board challenges [Marcia Neal and the rest of the State Board of Education contributed]

Constitutional challenges [CASB exec Ken Delay led a packed audience]

February 13, 2013

Strength in collaborating...

Great leaders, great vision, great camaraderie!  What a pleasure it 'twas, this past weekend, pitching in with the Crestone-Moffat governing teams.

The BIG: Being together in a learning/discovering environment.

Retreat focus: Clarifying and advancing shared core values.

Strength momentum in advance of the retreat: Trust and transparency.

Method of "madness":  Mix of large and small group conversations.  "Thumbs up, thumbs to the side, thumbs down" moments to affirm strong consensus and explore shared hopes.  

Special benefit: A cutting-edge learning environment that is the new Crestone Charter school. "Wow!" does not cut it.   For a glimpse, go here.

February 11, 2013

5 links / Measuring teacher performance...

Rich resources as we all move further into the new era of educator effectiveness:

- "Study details how to evaluate teachers"  – EdNews article affirming Colorado work, January 9, 2013

- "Ensuring Fair and Reliable Measures of Effective Teaching" – 2012 insights from the massive study funded by the Gates Foundation (results and recommendations very similar to 2011 NSBA report).  Catch the "nine principles

- "Building a better evaluation system, full report" – from NSBA's Center for Public Education, 2011.

- A suite of simple and powerful videos from our very own CDE (overview, the Colorado model, evaluation frameworks for teachers and principals, timelines...each in six minutes or less).

- "Creating a Comprehensive System for Evaluating and Supporting Effective Education" – Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, 2012

Here's hoping your board is "modeling the way" with a unique. local governance framework with shared norms/principles/standards, embedded appraising, and continuous learning/improving.  For specific examples of governing principles and strategic habits, go the blog's back page on "Mature work," here.  

February 7, 2013

Civility at risk...

Ah, civility!

So stressed in these times.
So easily taken for granted.
So often superseded by other values passionately expressed.
So undermined by tensioned needs and wants.

So many folks immersed in anxious times,
financial limitations and reductions,
status quos challenged to change,
maximized partisanship seemingly everywhere,
constant "blame games,"
and that terrible tendency to make an enemy of folks 
with different perspectives.

No easy answers, but here's hoping
for new, wildly-important investments in shared learning,
trustbuilding, sense making, understanding,
team building, and commUNITY collaboration.

[Caught the sign, above, on a refrigerator during a two-day board retreat/advance.]

January 28, 2013

5 Links / Rabbit holes, nostesia and...

Challenging the ol' status quo, this last week of January:

- "Down the rabbit hole of education reform" – Get ready to have some aspect of your thinking, ah, disturbed. A taste: "I fall down a rabbit hole. I look around and notice a little inlet just off to the west called The Institute of No Cliché Left Behind. As I enter I see a sign above a door: “21st Century Learning.” Four people, evidently educational reformers (they’re each wearing an Arne Duncan T-shirt), greet me at the door. I ask them to explain what 21st Century learning means. Each gives a different answer."

- "Nostesia," insights from Jamie "Schools Can't Do It Alone" Vollmer on a certain delusional syndrome.  A taste: " Millions of Americans argue, often vehemently, that today’s schools are dreadful compared to the temples of learning that existed in our golden past. In their view, we all would be better off if schools could just be the way they used to be. These people are suffering from a debilitating mental condition that I have named nostesia: a hallucinogenic mixture of 50% nostalgia and 50% amnesia that distorts rational thinking...."

- "What is 21st century education?" – a lively video on how the education landscape is changing, great as a conversation/learning/meeting catalyst

- "Ignite!" – Colorado Legacy Foundation's video on expanded learning opportunities

- GapMinder's "living data" on the wealth and health of nations rising over the decades.  Still in awe after many viewings over the last few years.  For a stunning look about why there's so much world competition for everything from education rankings to concrete supplies, go here.

January 26, 2013

Next steps, Weldon Valley style...

About a month ago, I had the privilege of working with one of the longest, sustained, good-to-great governing teams in the state. In a night devoted to advancing strength, members honed their effectiveness framework (vision-purpose-goals-norms-values) and discussed the  "new work of boards" with standards, accountability, educator effectiveness, anti bullying, and reading.  For a glance at board characteristics, norms and standards of excellence, go to the "Mature work" tab, above.

January 23, 2013

New advocacy days at the Golden Dome...

Stopped by a very energetic prep session, this morning, for CASB's first of many "Regional Days at the Capitol." Above, leaders from Region 2 (Bennett to Burlington) listen to advocacy guru Jane Urschel as they prepare for a day connecting with issues and legislators at the Golden Dome. 

Leveraging the power of  CASB's 170-plus governing teams and 900-plus individuals, the focused advocacy days will continue weekly through April 17. If you can't make your "appointed" regional date, feel free to register for a day that works for you.  For details, including schedule, go here.  For info on the annual advocacy conference, Feb. 14-15, go here.  For tips on local, state and federal advocacy, go here.

Advocate on!

January 22, 2013

Working together on the new, the next...

Just back from CASB Board of Directors' annual retreat (Friday-Sunday in Florrisant).  The  governing team of 22 (count 'em) developed insights and hopes amid the first steps of new "leading the way" strategic action.  That's CASB president Matt Cook at the easel, above.  Below: President-elect Jan Tanner (l), staffer Jane Urschel (m) and director Lezlie Burkley (r).  For a  list of appreciative inquiry questions used to frame the process, go to the blog's "crucial conversations" button above.  


The power of "Area CASB" was in high gear at the Aguilar-Huerfano learning community, recently.  Highlights included gaining wisdom through scenario discussions, sharing successes, and discovering clarity with the next step (shared learning around Aguilar and Rocky Ford's experience with excellence Flip Flippen style (here and here).  Below:  Everyone's performance target.


Stopped by Granada for what turned into an amazing three-hour dinner around the moral and strategic responsibilities of great governing.  Left challenged to develop "dashboard templates" to help build visual learning and reality conversations at the local level about the effects of declining enrollment, Colorado's disinvestment in most things public and crucial people/program/priority challenges.  Along the way, we discussed low/no cost ways to advance board effectiveness, buidling trust in an anxious/stressed era, mentoring, the upcoming candidate and new team seasons, and a little about Year of the Student (the whole team had already signed up in support).

January 9, 2013

What size plate would you like for that?....

Well, it's mid year and I'm wondering.....Do you have enough on your plate? Yes? You think so? I suppose, maybe, but then again, you might just need more plates.

The work and issues never really stop, they just increase and decrease. Sometimes a board may need to put the issues into greater perspective and, rather than showing signs of being overwhelmed, divide up your work onto different plates. Smaller issues should take less time, but many times we tend to drag them out. All of your issues are not created equal so don't treat them as if they are.

Big stuff....big plate. Small stuff might fit in a bowl. Some of it you could probably donate to someone else. The point is, in times of greater demands, you might want to make sure things like the easy "one word change" in a policy are actually handled quickly and efficiently. Treat your main dish with the attention it deserves (along with your veggies), then head for the little dessert plate. Now go ahead and chow down. Would you like a cup of tea with that?

December 21, 2012

Relative calm......

You hear it a lot..."Hey, have a great vacation with all the kids out of school." "This will be a really quiet time for you board members." "Bet you'll like not having anything to do for a couple of weeks." Yeah, sure, you bet. Seems like there is always something going on for the board to deal with, think about, or act on.

December 9, 2012

"Wow things" of 2012...

Kudos to Colorado's education leaders in 2012!  As my new friend Francis in Kenya would say, "They learn like spoons filling up, not like forks leaking."

"Wow things" of the year:

November 28, 2012

It takes a board.....

Here I am, my thoughts about boards of education careening off the old proverb "It takes a village to raise a child." We hear that one a lot in the realm of education. What we don't hear so much is that it takes a entire board of diverse backgrounds and raise a board member. It also takes a board to raise a district, or a superintendent, or themselves. Ok, my proverb thing here is falling a bit flat.

However, it does take the entire board, working in concert, to add value to the district. And that is exactly what many of you are doing this week. Even with all of the other things going on in your lives, you are heading to the CASB Annual Convention, with your teams, to expand your horizons to help you become the boards your communities deserve. This is your yearly opportunity to learn, observe, listen, ponder, mentor, interact, and don't waste it. Embrace it.

November 13, 2012

I don't remember why.....

Gee whiz....I opened a cabinet door on my desk at home today and look what I found. Binders full of stuff from my board days. I mean, come on, I've been off the board a few years now and I'm still finding stuff. I mostly find binders of stuff. It's just stuff now and I don't remember why I saved it...must  have had a good reason, but I just don't remember. Accreditation review from 2005...grade reconfiguration study...complete building statistics and specs of every district building from 1999. Why did I keep them? Why were they important? I don't remember.

But it's okay for me not to remember why they were important to keep, you see, because I'm no longer on the board. As long as you are on your board, however; you need to be paying attention and remembering those important policies for example. One of my pet peeves.....listening to a board member during policy review saying "I don't remember why we adopted this policy." WHAT? Whose work has this member been working on? Apparently not the board's work.

November 6, 2012

Empty wire sign hangers in my dreams....

Wow, that was weird. I woke up this morning in a panic..In my dream, I hadn't ordered my campaign yard signs, brochures, nothing. All I had were empty wire sign hangers in my yard. I had completely forgotten to let anyone know I was running for school board and just realized it was election day. Yikes! Now, that panic moment was very brief and I got quite the chuckle out of it, but it did make me realize that I get a bit of a charge out of elections, although I am glad my panic was all for naught. Whew. Admit it, you're glad you're not running for election this year, too, aren't you.

October 17, 2012

Quality tools, everlasting...

I was just unloading my groceries and noticed the bag they were in. Tried and true. I got the bag at a CASB annual convention....The Great Convening in 2000-something. I can't tell because the last date number on the bag is worn off. What ISN"T worn off (and I thought this was so bizarre) is the word "Tools" and "CASB". Well, no surprise there. Everlasting.

After all, quality tools never leave you....and the tools you allow to enter your life at the CASB conferences will serve you and your boards and districts well for the rest of your advocacy days. I've been off of the school board for a few years now, but I still make use of the skills, knowledge, authors, and connections that CASB facilitated for me in my board years.

September 19, 2012

Lead like a pirate!...

September 19 every year is International Talk Like a Pirate Day....and, Mateys, me thinks ye could learn a bit from the scurvy sea dogs. This post isn't actually about the day, but the book, Lead Like a Pirate! by Christopher Novak. Yeah, yeah, I know...some of you are out there saying "Who is this person? What is she  thinking? And, by the way, what's for dinner 'cuz I have a meeting tonight?"

Ok, so here's the scoop. This is a fun little book that really does make some great points about leadership and teamwork. It's short, so the entire board team can work through it quickly and choose different pirate characters for the scenarios. Themed fun with a focus! Yaaarrgh.

"That is the strength of a diverse team...each pirate stepping forward when it is their time to lead, their time to act."

I know you're all busy and you're learning a tremendous amount, but are you and your team learning together? Do you know how each other likes to work? Do you know how each is likely to contribute during a meeting? You may be wondering what I'm thinking...but do you wonder the same thing about your teammates?

September 10, 2012

Stepping up the leadING...

CASB president Tom Sifers makes a point during the Steamboat regional, last week, about the leading-the-way conversation inside the CASB Board of Directors.

If you and/or your team...have joined the good-to-great governing conversation....believe governing is a leadership function....constantly wonder about "best governing for the sake of the kids"...believe boards of EDUCATION should be accountable for excellence...

...then, please consider this adaptation from  "Intentional Leadership" guru Michael Hyatt's blog as a tool for advancing your work:

You're a leader, you are leadING, if you are...
  1. Desiring to make a difference
  2. Healthily dissatisfied with status quo
  3. Not waiting for more resources 
  4. Dreaming so big that the dreams seem almost impossible to achieve
  5. Valuing what is but always asking “What could be?” 
  6. Committed to personal influence
  7. Taking responsibility for solutions, never blaming
  8. Fostering unity, building togetherness and dialogue
  9. Admiting, owning and correcting mistakes
  10. Valuing relationships more than tasks
  11. Walking the talk sincerely and intentionally
  12. Learning, reading, listening, asking lots of questions
"Leadership is not about experience, education, or talent." Hyatt says. "It’s about the choosing to lead."