Power, Politics, School Boards
Lecture Presented by Dr. Lyndon First, Andrews University

Power: The ability or the potential to influence decisions and control resources.

Sources of Power

  1. Position
  2. Personal Influence

  3. Ownership–Power is diffused when many persons have the power.

  4. Resources–If you can provide the resources needed, you have power.

  5. Opportunity–Being at the right place at the right time.

  6. Competence–Doing an excellent job, problem-solving skills, etc.

  7. Proximity–Being close to power.

Power is good if it is used to further the goal of the organization. Power is negative if it is used to further one’s political objective and selfish motives.

The art and science of governing. The manner in which governance takes place.
Politic–Having practical wisdom. Displaying prudence. Being diplomatic.
Underlying Concepts
These underlying concepts must be understood before any one can govern a school.
  1. People have unreasonable expectations for the school.

  2. Parents are not rational.

First Steps in Politics

  1. Power structure. Learn the power structure and act accordingly.

  2. Culture. Learn the culture of the place; e.g.: family ties, how people dress, what they eat, how people do things.

  3. Traditions. Learn the sacred traditions.

  4. People’s expectations. Learn people’s expectations, but be careful how you go about fulfilling these expectations.

Rules of Politics

  1. Nobody will tell you what the rules are.

  2. Be active in community life.

  3. Communicate. Most of all, LISTEN.

  4. Be positive about the job, the school community. Do not talk negatively about anything.

  5. Make change slowly. However, there are times when some changes need to be effected right away. Learn to know the difference.

  6. Make friends, especially with children.

  7. Admit your mistakes.

  8. Act like you know, but don’t be arrogant about it.

  9. Be yourself.

  10. Do good work. Show competence. Have a passion for your own excellence.


Board of Trustees
These are some guidelines for principals and superintendents to go by when interacting with Boards of Trustees.
  1. Positive relationships. Develop and maintain positive relationships with board members.

  2. Work especially close with the chair of the board.

  3. Provide training for board members.

  4. Establish the roles of the board and administration.

  5. Take leadership. The superintendent/principal takes leadership, proposes policies, develops budgets, etc.

  6. Present alternatives. Always have alternatives to present to the board.

  7. Do your homework and be prepared.

  8. Never surprise the board chair. Go over the agenda with the chair. Discuss your ideas.

  9. Stay with the agenda. To add any item on the agenda, an action must be taken by the board.

  10. Bring only important issues to the board, but inform the board chair about trivial matters.

  11. Be open and honest with board members. Your credibility depends on it.

  12. Keep in close contact with the board and the higher organization of the Church.

Roles of the Board and the Principal
The Board selects the principal, develops budget guidelines, set policies. Board members should stay out of individual incidences and are expected to govern the school system without encroaching on the authority of the superintendent or principal. The Board overall responsibilities includes:
  1. Policy

  2. Staffing

  3. Fiscal matters

  4. Curriculum

  5. Student

  6. Teachers relations

  7. Community relations

  8. Intergovernmental requirements

The principal develops the procedures to implement the policies, works out the budget.

Methods of Election of School Boards
School boards are selected by either of two methods:
  1. appointment (leads to greater competence and less politics).

  2. election (leads to greater accountability to the public). School boards comprise a seven- to nine-member range, with the largest school board having 19 members. The average size is seven.

Types of Board Meetings
There are three general types of board meeting: regular, special, and executive. The regular and special meetings are open to the public, while the executive is closed to the public and deals with managerial issues or serious problems.


Challenges Facing School Boards
The greatest problems facing school boards in recent years are (1) academic, (2) finance, (3) school buildings, (4) student enrollment.