There are three dimensions to the effective governance of any organization. The actions of an individual, a group coming together to govern and the performance of governance responsibilities by a group.
In a school district, the board and superintendent work together as a governance team. For a governance team to work together effectively, members need to (1) Maintain a Unity of Purpose, (2) Agree on and govern within appropriate roles, (3) Create and sustain a positive governance culture, (4) Create a supportive structure for effective governance.
Effective governance tenets encompass the basic characteristics and behaviors that enable governance team members to effectively create a climate for excellence in a school district and maintain the focus on improved student learning and achievement.
Governance – A Definition
School district governance is the act of transforming the needs, wishes and desires of the community into policies that direct the community’s schools.
UNITY OF PURPOSE
Unity of purpose is a common focus, overarching goals, and the values and beliefs governance team members share about children, the district and public education that help them transcend their individual differences to fulfill a greater purpose.
OUR DISTRICT’S CORE VALUES, MISSION, VISION
GOVERNANCE ROLE AND RESPONSABILITIES
Citizen oversight of local government is the cornerstone of democracy in the United States. The role of the trustees who sit on locally elected school boards is to ensure school districts are responsive to the values, beliefs ad priorities of their communities. Boards fulfill this role by performing five major responsibilities. These are setting direction; establishing an effective and efficient structure; providing support; ensuring accountability; and providing community leadership as advocates for children, the school district and public schools.
These five responsibilities represent core functions that are so fundamental to a school system’s accountability to the public that they can only be performed by an elected governing body. Authority is granted to the board as a whole, not each member individually. Therefore, board members fulfill these responsibilities by working together as a governance team with the superintendent to make decisions that will best serve all the students in the community.
The board carries out these responsibilities in each of the following job areas:
Setting the District’s Direction
Student Learning and Achievement
Community Relations and Advocacy
The superintendent assists the board in carrying out its responsibilities in each of the job areas, and leads the staff toward the accomplishment of the agreed upon district vision and goals. The following page provides more detail on how the board performs its governance responsibilities in each job area. It’s important to remember that boards who inadvertently get involved in staff functions undercut their ability to hold the superintendent accountable for the results of those efforts.
PERFORMING GOVERNANCE RESPONSIBILITIES
We agree with the responsibilities of school boards as described below by the California School Boards Association:
Set the direction for the community’s schools
Focus on student learning
Assess needs/obtain baseline data
Generate, review or revise setting direction documents (beliefs, vision, priorities, strategic goals, success indicators)
Ensure an appropriate inclusive process is used
Ensure these documents are the driving force for all district efforts.
Establish an effective and efficient structure for the school district
Employ and support the superintendent
Establish a human resources framework that includes policies for hiring and evaluating other personnel
Oversee the development of and adopted policies
Set a direction for and adopt the curriculum and require data-reducing assessment systems
Establish budget priorities, adopt the budget and oversee facilities issues
Provide direction and vote to accept collective bargaining agreements
Provide support through our behavior and actions
Act with professional demeanor that models the district’s beliefs and vision
Make decision and provide resources that support mutually agreed upon priorities and goals
Uphold board-approved district policies and support staff implementation of board direction
Ensure a positive working climate exists
Be knowledgeable enough about district efforts to explain them to the public
Ensure accountability to the public
Evaluate the superintendent
Monitor, review and revise policies
Serve as a judicial and appeals body
Monitor student achievement and program effectiveness and require program changes as indicated
Monitor the collective bargaining process
Act as community leaders
Speak with a common voice about district priorities, goals and issues
Engage and involve the community in district schools and activities
Communicate clear information about policies, programs and fiscal conditions of the district
Educate the community and the media about the issues facing students, the district and public education
Advocate for children, district programs and public education to the general public, key community members and local, state and national leaders
POSITIVE GOVERNANCE TEAM CULTURE
Culture is the positive or negative atmosphere created by the way people in an organization treat each other. Teams have unwritten (implicit) or written (explicit) agreements about how they will behave with each other and others. These behavioral ground rules, often called norms, enable teams to build and maintain a positive culture or shift a negative one.
Because the community elects school board members to set and monitor the direction of the school district, and the district superintendent translates all efforts into action, it is vital that the board and superintendent have a respectful and productive working relationship based on trust and open communications.
OUR GOVERNANCE NORMS
We agree to –
- Focus on students’ best interests – on what’s best for kids! This is what we do! And it is the cornerstone that allows us to have our differences
- Keep from taking disagreements personally (individually embraces, respected)
- Show respect (never dismiss/devalue others)
- Make a commitment to effective deliberation, each listening openly while everyone is allowed to express his or her point of view
- Make a commitment to open communication, honesty, no surprises
- Commit to time necessary to govern effectively. This means being present, being knowledgeable, participating, understanding the full scope of being a board member and being willing to take on all the responsibilities involved
- Be collaborative (this is the way we operate)
- Maintain confidentiality (build trust)
- Look upon history as lessons learned; focus on the present and the future