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Strengthening Governance: Opportunity Trust Launches Board Leadership Academy to Support Collaboration and Excellence in School Governance

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In fall 2020, the Opportunity Trust launched a Board Leadership Academy in partnership with national board capacity-building organization, Education Board Partners. In line with our strategy to foster greater learning, collaboration, and coordination, the aim of this pilot fellowship is to create a space for St. Louis charter school board leaders to build relationships, learn from one another, and tap into national best practices and perspectives on board governance.

Sessions have focused on topics including how to recruit a diverse board with an inclusive culture, developing a strong relationship with the school leader, strengthening academic oversight, and building coalitions across stakeholder groups. Program participants have heard from experts across these topics, including former Secretary of Education John King speaking about the role boards play in ensuring all students are performing at high levels and have equitable access to the resources and support. Watch this discussion here.

As the Board Leadership Academy’s first cohort concludes its programming, we asked some participants about their experience and what impact it will have on their schools.

Joe Blomker
Chair, Premier Charter School

What have you gained from participating in the Board Leadership Academy?

The program provided an opportunity to engage with other area charter school leaders and hear perspectives from guest speakers on a wide range of relevant governance topics.

How will your experience in the program impact your school?

Each topic provides new insight on opportunities to improve governance – particularly related to board function and focus on performance.

Hanley Chiang
Executive Committee Member and Chair of School Performance Committee, EAGLE College Prep

What have you gained from participating in the Board Leadership Academy?

I value the relationships that I’ve developed with the other Academy participants. Through these relationships, I’ve been able to appreciate the common challenges that we face in our work as board members–providing rigorous academic oversight, ensuring equity and inclusion, and developing the right metrics for monitoring progress. More importantly, I’ve been able to hear from and share with the other participants a variety of fresh ideas on how to address these challenges. Likewise, the excellent discussions facilitated by the Academy directors have exposed me to some specific, concrete ideas for improving our board’s approaches to governance, including ways of engaging parents, managing relationships with the executive director, and diversifying board membership.

How will your experience in the program impact your school?

This Academy has come at a very opportune time for EAGLE College Prep, because we are in the process of hiring a new executive director. When developing criteria for what types of experiences, competencies, and personality traits we would look for in our new executive director, we have drawn from the Academy discussions and resources about high-quality governance and healthy relationships between boards and executive directors.

The Opportunity Trust invests in educators and school systems eager to build the capacity required to make significant and measurable change.

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