Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Board Chair/Vice Chair/ Organizational Board

Last night at the Organizational Board meeting, Trustee Don Fleming was elected by his fellow trustees to serve as Board Chair for the upcoming year. I was elected Vice Chair and Trustee George Rice was re-elected as Conference Chair. I will serve on the Planning and Policy Committee and continue on the Government Relations Committee. I will also step out of the "Alternate" role and move into the Board Representative for the Linkages Committee (an inter-agency, inter-government committee, with a shared focus on children). Trustee Gibson has served as co-chair of that committee for several years and has kindly offered to carry on as alternate, to show me the ropes.

These are the "outcomes", to use education-speak, but they don't really tell the story of transformation and personal growth that has occured over the past few weeks. The real story, for me, started with my decision to enter the race for Board Chair about three weeks ago. I distributed a position paper to my fellow trustees, outlining my ideas for the role and encouraged them to articulate the traits and attributes of their ideal Chair. I also asked them to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses and line them up against their "ideal". It was a little unnerving, to be honest, to lay myself open for criticism in this way, but like the book says: Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. The insights of these 8 trustees are essential to my growth and development. They have seen me, heard me and watched me as I've struggled to understand the complexities of this role. And so, with a deep breath in, it began... many conversations...and each time, I was humbled by what I heard.

People told me they thought the year ahead would be challenging and therefore the Board (and District) needed someone with experience at the helm. They were clear and kind in their evaluation of my weaknesses, but they were also supportive and encouraging regarding my strengths. In the end, it was clear that I did not have the votes for Board Chair. When Trustee Fleming announced his decision to seek the Board Chair seat, I saw that we had two strong candidates, both with experience: Trustee Esslinger and Trustee Fleming. It made sense at that time to focus my efforts on the Vice Chair race... a place where my strengths could shine and my weaknesses be addressed. Trustee Ripley was also interested in continuing in the role of Vice Chair and, so again, the Board was spoiled with the choice of two strong candidates.

In the end, the process of honest reflection and communication was so rewarding, that I would have been happy with any outcome. If you've ever opened yourself up in this way, you know what a bridge-building exercise it is. Our friends will love us despite our flaws, but if we want to grow, we need to listen carefully and openly to our critics. They possess the knowledge we need to attain our best selves. This is a gift that only they can give.

Turning things around, in my own mind, has been transformative. I believe Einstein said (forgive the paraphrasing): "You cannot fix a problem by thinking in the same way that created the problem." We must be open to other ways of thinking- and believe that others hold an integral part of OUR puzzle. As soon as we think we've got all the pieces in our two hands, we stop building and imagining.

I am truly honoured to have this opportunity to continue to grow and learn in the role of Vice Chair. I look forward to working with Trustee Fleming and reaping the benefit of his hard-won knowledge. I hope all of this will enable me to be ready to lead the Board, when and if the time is right in the future. (and yes, I intend to run again.)

1 comment:

Clare Peters said...

Hi Sue

It's been a while since I have been able to follow the winding paths of the EPSB trustees. I am very impressed with both your tenacity and growth over the last several years. Your dialog has matured and your vision has become clearer. I am pleased that you have been able to move into the vice chair position and I look forward to your influence in that position. I am also pleased to see a change in the chair position. Thanks for all you do to make the learning environment for our children the best it can be.