Professional Governance Standards


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 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.





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



Human Resources


Judicial Review

Collective Bargaining

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.


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


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.


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