Yesterday was the culmination of close to six months of work for the founding board of Circle City Prep, an elementary school that will now open on the Far Eastside of Indianapolis in the fall of 2017. The Indiana Charter School Board (ICSB) voted unanimously in favor of granting the charter.
Outside of my full time job, being a founding board member has consumed more time than anything else the past six months. It has been an incredible experience that has pushed me in ways I never thought being on a founding board would. More about this in just a few sentences.
Before I go into the main purpose of this article, I want to congratulate a few people and organizations. Most importantly, congratulations to our founding school leader, Megan Murphy. Megan has spent the last twelve months creating a founding board, and writing a few hundred page charter application. ICSB staff, and the board, were beyond complimentary of her effort and the final product. Congratulations to Building Excellent Schools. The professional development and support this organization provides to its fellows, and their boards, is a cut above the rest. They continue to produce proven leaders who are managing some of the most effective charter schools in the country. Finally, congratulations to founding board members: Jennifer Bartenbach, Doris Tolliver, Aaron Berkey, Michael Nagel, and Richard Brown. It has been a pleasure getting to know, and learning from, each of you.
The purpose of this article is to highlight some reflections about my experiences with joining a founding board and to encourage others to get involved.
Board Experience Reflections
- If being a part of something bigger than oneself is important to you, then you should consider joining a board. Reflecting back over my life, I realize I personally am most satisfied when I feel like I am a part of something bigger than myself outside of my profession. In high school it was athletics, in college it was my fraternity, Delta Tau Delta, in the beginning stages of my career it was Teach for America, then it was the Indianapolis Principal Fellowship. Circle City Prep is the current experience, and it has been wonderfully fulfilling.
- If making a substantial community impact is important to you, then you should consider joining a board. Indianapolis, and communities across this country, are home to hundreds, and in some places thousands, of not-for-profits who are looking for all types of skill sets to be on their board. These organizations need expertise from people with experience in accounting, finance, legal, human resources, facilities, marketing, strategic planning, and the list continues. Find a cause you are passionate about supporting, and use your skill set to benefit that organization.
- If personal and professional development, and life-long learning, are important to you, then you should consider joining a board. The longer I am an adult, the more I realize how finite time is. My experiences have been, that the free time I have, I want to spend it with my wife, family, and close friends. I can’t even imagine how finite time becomes when a child or two is added to the equation! Because of this, my opportunities to meet people, and willingly leave my comfort zone, during my “free time” are less frequent than when I was younger, single, and had less responsibilities. Being on a board has helped me meet people I otherwise would likely not have met. These people all have difference backgrounds and skill sets than me, and I learn from them each time we are together.
How to Get Involved
- Update LinkedIn – In one’s LinkedIn profile there is a section titled “Causes you care about:”. Adding the causes you care about there, makes you searchable to people looking for board members who: 1) care about their cause and 2) have professional expertise one is looking to harness. Our founding school leader found our board chair searching in this manner!
- Volunteer – Volunteering can be formal or informal. Formal volunteering may mean joining a committee of a current board. Informal volunteering can be, for example, planting trees one weekend with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful if you are interested in community revitalization.
- Reach Out – Reach out to a current board member, employee, or someone in your network connected to an organization for which you are interested in becoming involved. I’ve yet to meet a not-for-profit who is not looking for people to volunteer in a one-day or ongoing capacity. It just takes a small leap of faith.
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