Knowing Where You are Headed


Becoming a charter public school board member did not happen by accident. Perhaps someone recognized your background and previous experiences as useful to the school’s mission, or perhaps you saw what the school was trying to accomplish and believed you could contribute. Either way, your role as a board member is to govern the school and ensure it fulfills its mission.

Put simply, the school’s mission has now become your mission.

If you haven’t already, be sure you read the school’s mission statement and know it well. These brief statements should articulate the outcomes your school is aiming to achieve, for whom, and how the organization plans to get there. Every decision you make as a board member – even the smallest – should be considered with the school’s mission in the back of your mind. You must continually ask yourself if the vote you cast is advancing the school’s mission or making it more difficult to achieve. The answer may sometimes surprise you!

From time to time, the board may consider reviewing and possibly updating its mission. Changing realities, such as shifts in the community you are serving or evolving operational needs, may require the school to adjust its aims. Such changes must be carefully considered and deliberately undertaken, as the mission underlies every other decision made by the school.

Why is this so important? It’s because great organizations demonstrate their effectiveness by measuring their progress toward mission. For example, The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools evaluates its schools, in part, through a series of mission-specific goals. These goals assist the Center in identifying gains that have been made in areas that are not measured by standardized tests, and allow schools to demonstrate success toward their missions.

It is essential for you and your colleagues on the board to keep the school’s mission in mind and never remove it from your collective consciousness. It is a sure-fire method of staying on track and, ultimately, for achieving academic excellence for the students you serve.


Your school’s mission statement should describe the ends to be achieved, and the school’s existing organization and resources are the means for achieving them. As a board member, you will have to offer your best thinking about how to allocate dollars, manage a broad spectrum of community needs, and adopt policies that maximize the likelihood that your school’s mission will be fully realized.

The school organization itself is a complex tool with many moving parts that the board is responsible for governing. You must understand it well enough to predict how it will behave given a certain set of circumstances. You must also be prepared to care for it and make it strong. The same is true of your school community.

It is this gap – between your current set of organizational realities and the mission your school aims to fulfill – in which you will do much of your work.

Now, let’s get started on the journey.


Knowing Where You are Headed
Being Prepared
Knowing the Terrain
Managing Your Assets
Sending and Receiving Messages
Laying the Trail
Administering First Aid
Seeking Help if You’re Lost
Building the Team
Knowing When You Have Arrived
Communicating with Base Camp

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