CASB Great Governing

A service of the Colorado Association of School Boards, Great Governing is dedicated to citizen leaders learning, growing and achieving for "the sake of the kids." For a conversation, contact Randy Black at CASB headquarters, 1200 Grant Street, Denver, Colorado 80203.

800-530-8430, 303-832-1000

Here's wisdom from across the country on BEING great at governing...

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LIGHTHOUSE HABITS AND STANDARDS

The best research on what it takes to provide great governing comes from the Lighthouse Project, based in the Iowa Association of School Boards and networked throughtout the country.

Five core roles...

  • Setting clear expectations
  • Creating conditions for success
  • Holding system accountable to expectations
  • Building collective will
  • Learning together as a board team

Seven standards...

  • Operating as a visionary, ethical governance team
  • Providing effective leadership for improved student learning
  • Acting with fiscal responsibility
  • Complying with state/federal law and board policy
  • Establishing a human resource system that enables all people to contribute meaningfully
  • Ensuring safe and equitable access to learning
  • Building effective legislative and community relationships

For an overview of the Lighthouse work, go here.  For a detailed report, go here.

 

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FOUNDATION PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE GOVERNANCE

Illinois leaders have long framed "the work of great governing" around foundational principles.  

The collective wisdom is always introduced with language of social, moral and legal responsibility:  "

As the corporate entity charged by law with governing a school district, each School Board sits in trust for its entire community. The obligation to govern effectively imposes some fundamental duties on the Board:"

  • The Board Clarifies the District Purpose.
  • The Board Connects With the Community.
  • The Board Employs a Superintendent.
  • The Board Delegates Authority.
  • The Board Monitors Performance.
  • The Board Takes Responsibility For Itself.

For details, go here.

 

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EIGHT CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE SCHOOL BOARDS

 

From the Center for Public Education:

"What makes an effective school board – one that positively impacts student achievement? From a research perspective, it’s a complex question. It involves evaluating virtually all functions of a board, from internal governance and policy formulation to communication with teachers, building administrators, and the public. But the research that exists is clear: boards in high-achieving districts exhibit habits and characteristics that are markedly different from boards in low-achieving districts. So what do these boards do? Here are eight characteristics."

  • Effective school boards commit to a vision of high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction and define clear goals toward that vision. 
  • Effective school boards have strong shared beliefs and values about what is possible for students and their ability to learn, and of the system and its ability to teach all children at high levels. 
  • Effective school boards are accountability driven, spending less time on operational issues and more time focused on policies to improve student achievement. I
  • Effective school boards have a collaborative relationship with staff and the community and establish a strong communications structure to inform and engage both internal and external stakeholders in setting and achieving district goals. 
  • Effective school boards are data savvy: they embrace and monitor data, even when the information is negative, and use it to drive continuous improvement. 
  • Effective school boards align and sustain resources, such as professional development, to meet district goals. 
  • Effective school boards lead as a united team with the superintendent, each from their respective roles, with strong collaboration and mutual trust. 
  • Effective school boards take part in team development and training, sometimes with their superintendents, to build shared knowledge, values and commitments for their improvement efforts. High-achieving districts had formal, deliberate training for new board members. They also often gathered to discuss specific topics. 

For the detail list, go here.

 

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NINE ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES

Collective wisdom of Oregon board leaders has identified nine principles of a successful school board members.  Here's a quick glimpse:

  • The child comes first!
  • School boards are community members who establish rules for how the district is run... 
  • School board members function as a board; not individually...
  • The board sets the policies...carrying out board policies is the responsibility of the superintendent and those under his or her authority... 
  • Know your schools... 
  • School board members are the people's representatives in the school program...A great many people do not understand the limitations of a board member's authority. 
  • Effective boardsmanship means being able to voice the minority opinion when voting on an issue, then supporting the majority vote in the community...
  • Being an effective board member means participating in regional, state and national meetings. 
  • Abiding by code of conduct and board member ethics is important... 
  • Enjoy your work as a school board member...

For more, go here.

 

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FIVE TRAITS OF HIGH-IMPACT SCHOOL BOARDS

  • Concentration on governing above all other board work 
  • Development of the board's capacity to govern 
  • Active participation in leading district strategic change 
  • Meticulous attention to keeping the board-superintendent partnership healthy 
  • Active participation in reaching out a wider community 

- from board effectiveness guru Doug Eadie's Five Habits of High-Impact School Boards

 

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THE 1O PRINCIPLES OF POLICY GOVERNANCE (simplified)

  • Govern on behalf of ownership
  • Speak with one voice
  • Make policy decisions 
  • Policy formed from large issues/values then adds necessary detail
  • Define and delegate, rather than react and ratify
  • Focus on ends not means
  • Set boundaries rather than prescriptions
  • Own, develop and improve board effectiveness 
  • Foster relationship with management that's empowering, safe and effective
  • Monitor performance constantly with rigor

 

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NINE HABITS OF INEFFECTIVE BOARDS

  • Disregard the agenda process and chain-of-command
  • Confuse their roles with that of superintendent and staff
  • Nit-pick
  • Micro-manage
  • Play to the media
  • Focus on their personal interests
  • Have interpersonal conflict with other board members or staff
  • Commit limited time or energy to improving governance
  • Do not respect the leadership of the district

- from the Educational Policy Institute of California (for a simple and powerful read about the effective side of EPIC's work, go here)

 

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SUSTAINING BEHAVIORS OF EFFECTIVE BOARDS

  • Establishment of governance protocols and norms for how the team will operate when they are working together
  • System of response when protocols are not followed by members of the team
  • Revisiting protocols for possible revisions
  • Setting meeting norms
  • Determination of long and short term goals
  • Regular review of practices and accountability for the practices
  • Effective evaluation of the board and the superintendent
  • Understanding of effective team behaviors
  • Retreat opportunities for the governance team to discuss big ideas and revisit their beliefs and practices
  • New board member orientation to the district and the board operations
  • Review of board policies on a regular basis
  • Regular professional development for the superintendent and board around important topics
  • Training for board presidents in managing meetings
  • Communications protocols for board members, especially in times of crisis
  • Regular updates from departments such as business, human resources, and educational services
  • Budget processes and procedures
  • Legal updates as needed
  • Student achievement discussions and focus

- from the Educational Policy Institute of California (for the brief, go here)

 

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"FOUR SACRED DUTIES" 

  1. Establish and promulgate ownership of the district's vision and values
  2. Articulate expected district results and monitor progress
  3. Create the conditions for achievement of the district's vision, values and expected results through effective use of the five areas of board authority: Promulgation of policies;, governing the use of community fiscal resources for education; engaging the community in its schools; Sustaining an effective board-executive relationship; negotiating and approving contracts
  4. Ensure a community-wide climate of commitment, respect and trust

- from Doing The Right Thing – The Panasonic Foundation's Guide for Effective School Boards