Lumen Impact Group
Lumen Impact Group

Board Service: What I Wish I Knew as a First-Time School Board Member

Published: February 28, 2024

By: Amy Ruck Kagan, Senior Partner

As someone who works with school boards for a living, I thought that becoming a board member at my kids’ charter school would be pretty straightforward. After all, years of working in the field have made me acutely aware of all the challenges that come with board service, and I’ve equipped countless boards with tactics to be effective. 

Well, when I started out, everything I thought I knew – every tactic I had trained others in, and every best-practice I had offered – had become much more complicated. All of a sudden it was  personal and it was hard! The stakes are high, and the quest for effective governance can be a daunting one. In this series, I aim to offer practical advice, share foundational principles, and guide you through the complexities of board service as somebody who is doing the hard work right alongside you.

But before we get into the details of how to lead an effective school board, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with the basics.

The Fundamentals of Governance

What’s your role and what are your responsibilities? Well, board members are the architects of policy, not the coffee fetchers. We’re here to set the direction, not micromanage. Think of it as the difference between being the captain of a ship and one of the sailors – our role is to steer, not row.

But there’s more to it. As board members, we have legal and ethical obligations. We need to navigate the legal landscape and follow our principles diligently to equip our schools for success.

Building a Strong Foundation

Every adventure needs a vision, right? Your organization is no different. A clear mission and vision statement serve as your map in this journey. They define your purpose and destination, setting the stage for success.

Strategic planning? That’s your GPS. It helps you plot your course, anticipate obstacles, and find the hidden gems of success. It’s the blueprint for your adventure.

And if strategic plans are your map,policies and procedures are like the rules of the road. They provide structure and guidance to ensure everyone’s on the same page.

So, grab your map and a road trip snack, and buckle up. Over the next few weeks I’ll share some tools to help you and your team successfully navigate the day-to-day of governance. If you have questions along the way, contact me! I’d love to hear more about the challenges you are facing and share how the Lumen team can help! 


"Lisa did a fantastic job with our entire strategic planning team. Her process was beyond organized. As a new administrator, I was able to lean on Lisa for her expertise and knowledge of strategic planning. She did everything from meeting organization and to facilitating subgroups, focus groups and staff culture surveys. Her work with the school board and administrative team was respectful, while also filled with appropriate advice and constructive feedback. I could not imagine going through this process without Lisa. She will continue to be a trusted resource for years to come."
Jamie DeWitt
School Leader, NexTech High School
"Lumen Impact Group has been critical in supporting Bluum’s efforts in Idaho to manage our $17.1 million federal Charter School Program grant. As one of the country’s first non-profit organizations to receive federal CSP funding, the stakes for our work are very high, and our efforts to help open, expand and replicate public charter schools face scrutiny. I sleep better knowing Lumen Impact Group has worked closely with us to build our processes, procedures and playbook for managing the responsibility of directing and overseeing a significant federal grant. I highly recommend them to others. They are true pros."
Terry Ryan
CEO, Bluum
"As a family-owned and operated company, we needed to preserve our culture and define our mission, vision and values better as we grew. Lumen Impact Group helped capture a variety of diverse perspectives and hopes for the future in a way that connected everyone involved. Lumen Impact Group helped us create a clear strategic focus and for our future stabilized our culture. Lisa also coached our leadership team in supporting implementation."
Mark Smith
President, Krapohl Ford & Lincoln
"Lisa Diaz and Lumen Impact provided invaluable support to Colorado Charter Facility Solutions during our start-up phase. I was the new non-profit organization’s executive director (and only employee at the time), and Lisa knew answers to questions that I did not even know to ask. She made sure the board of directors was set up correctly and that the organizational documents were in place. Lisa helped me establish the organization’s goals and ways to track progress. Lisa is organized, patient and kind, and worked quickly, thoroughly and collaboratively. She is a good listener and even acted as an executive coach/therapist at times. When necessary, Lisa can be direct, yet she is always focused on the goals of the organization and its success. I highly recommend Lisa Diaz and Lumen Impact Group. "
Jane Ellis
Executive Director, Colorado Charter Facility Solutions
"I have worked with Lumen Impact Group at both the individual and organizational level. As a coach, Lisa has a natural ability to get to the heart of the matter quickly and to ask questions that help her clients translate insight into action. Each team member who has worked with Lisa in a coaching capacity has demonstrated visible growth that has positively impacted individual and team performance. As an organization, we are trying to be purposeful about the culture we are creating, as a means of best fulfilling our mission. Lumen Impact Group has been a tremendous thought partner along the way and has facilitated critical steps in a collaborative yet efficient and fun way. Our team was in awe at how much we accomplished collectively in a short period of time. We are moving toward our ideal culture much more quickly than I thought possible, and I have no doubt it is because of Lumen Impact Group’s guidance. "
Kasey Miller
Chief of Staff, National Association of Charter School Authorizers