School Board Group Marks Anniversary
By JANESE HEAVIN
What started 50 years ago as an advocacy group designed to train new board of education members, the Missouri School Boards’ Association has evolved into a one-stop shop for public schools.
The not-for-profit corporation provides legal advice, consulting services and health insurance. It helps schools write policies, save money on utilities and apply for federal dollars. It goes to bat for public education at the state Capitol and even sponsors television programming.
The association’s expansion has been possible because of forward- thinking boards of directors, Executive Director Carter Ward said. “What has made us successful is we have looked with open eyes and listened with open ears to our members about the challenges facing school boards and school districts,” he said. “And we have a talented pool of people able to solve problems rather than commiserate problems.”
MSBA adopted articles of incorporation and located on the University of Missouri campus in 1958, sparking a celebration of the group’s 50th anniversary this year, although a school board association had met off and on during the 1940s. MSBA has been housed at its current headquarters off I-70 Drive S.W. since 1987.
The association receives the bulk of its $4.5 million budget from fees for services. About 30 percent comes from dues paid by the 394 school district members, including Columbia Public Schools, which pays $11,000 a year. Because MSBA is not-for-profit, any revenue not spent on salaries and day-to-day operation is used to expand services to members based on input from a 44-member board of directors.
“All of the board of director members are school board members, so there’s grass-roots support for everything MSBA does,” said Robin Kraus, immediate past president of the board and a school board member in Knob Noster. “The board has to approve and validate everything going on.”
The idea behind many of the services, Ward said, is to help districts cut non-instructional costs to put more money into classrooms. Here’s a look at some of those services.
– Training new school board members remains a cornerstone of the association. Missouri law requires all new members to complete 16 hours of training, and the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education pays MSBA to provide that training.
– MSBA continues to lobby state lawmakers on behalf of public education. That benefits all districts regardless of whether they are members, Krause said.
– Because school boards are charged with hiring a superintendent, MSBA provides consultants to assist with a superintendent search.
– MSBA drafts policies that ensure districts are aligned with state and federal laws. The association also can help a board draft custom policies unique to that district.
– The association’s legal staff fields about 6,000 hot-line calls each year from school board members who have questions about the state’s Open Records Law, personnel issues and, in recent months, new collective bargaining guidelines.
– MSBA in 2006 teamed up with California-based Myers-Stevens & Toohey & Co. to offer districts student insurance packages. The association also helps districts save money on natural gas and become more energy efficient.
– MSBA launched new video programming through the Education Solutions Global Network in 2005. ESGN allows schools to interact via Internet with special guests that, in the past, have included federal judges, lawmakers and health experts.
– This year, MSBA is beginning to help districts apply for federal funding available to schools that provide health services to children who receive Medicaid.
Reach Janese Heavin at (573) 815-1705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published by JANESE HEAVIN of the Tribune’s staff.
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