Board Goals Affect School Culture

By Dori Fenenbock

Revisiting a school district’s mission, vision and board goals is an annual practice. Generally, boards look back on the past year and determine which goals to carry forward and, if goals are aligned, evaluate the superintendent.

Our board at the El Paso Independent School District took a new approach to goal setting this year.  This may not seem extraordinary at first glance. However, when you understand the research behind this new approach and the opportunity for boards to dramatically affect the school culture, it is an exciting break that sets our district apart and ahead of longstanding practices.

Not only did we help to rebuild infrastructure, balance the budget and work to change district culture, but we also help set some important student learning goals.

Last month, board members participated in Texas Education Agency’s Lonestar Governance training that is based on one important principle: “Student outcomes don’t change until adult behavior changes.” Participants were challenged to self-assess what “I” (compared to the board as a whole) am doing that has negatively affected student outcomes. Examples were abuse of authority, contention on the board, and failure to improve education. The model then prescribes a method of that intensely focuses board goals, time, and district resources on improving student achievement. All other matters then fall under 3-5 board-identified student outcome goals.

The lightbulb went off for our board members and what we are charged by our community to do. We then created 4 Student Outcome Goals that are aligned with the EPISD 2020 Strategic Plan:

  1. Y% of students will enroll in community college, university, military or an industry certification program by 2021 increased from X% from each high school.
  2. The achievement gap by feeder pattern, disability, SPED, and ELL will decline by X% on all academic measures by 2021.
  3. Y% of students will graduate proficient in EPISD 2020 student learning goals by 2021, increasing from x%.
  4. Y% of EPISD students will be literate in 2 or more languages increasing from X% by 2021.

We are eager to identify target percentages and work alongside EPISD in achieving these student outcome goals. We also are working hard to share our ideas, connect with others doing similar work and learn from how their school boards are collaborating with district leaders and families.

At the SXSWedu conference this year, I had the opportunity to share some these insights along with Kendall Pace (Austin Independent School District), Dr. Richard Carranza (Houston Independent School District) and AJ Crabill (Texas Education Agency Program Specialist). We all believe that a school board, while not always seen as a primary driving force, truly has the power to help shape and grow teaching and learning in a district.



Dori is the current President of the El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees. Follow Dori at @doriforepisd and check back on EDU Transformed to read more about what she is working on in EPISD.

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