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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Local School Boards

Dr. Britt Blackwell had a "To the Contrary" piece in Saturday's Rock Hill Herald (Education must have open communication). As a follow-up to this, I'd like remind parents their communication link is to the teacher, principal, district administration, and then the school board...and since this is an election year, I thought it would be good to review what Boards and Board members are charged with below:

Governance Standards

The Board

School districts are governed by boards, not by individual trustees. While always respecting their different roles, the board and superintendent work together as a "governance team." This team assumes collective responsibility for building unity and creating a positive organizational culture in order to govern effectively.
To operate effectively, the board must have a unity of purpose and:
  • Keep the district focused on learning achieving for all students.
  • Communicate a common vision.
  • Operate openly, with trust and integrity.
  • Govern in a dignified and professional manner, treating everyone with civility and respect.
  • Govern with board-adopted policies and procedures.
  • Take collective responsibility for the board's performance.
  • Periodically evaluate its own effectiveness.
  • Ensure opportunities for the diverse range of views in the community to inform board deliberations.
  • On a regular basis, review student performance measures, gauging accomplishment of District goals in order to effectuate more rapid identification of obstacles and implement solutions to them.
  • Sets the goals and a timetable for achievement of District learning achievement goals, and determines annual milestone measurements to the achievement of goals.

The Board's Job

The primary responsibilities of the board are to set a direction for the district, provide a structure by establishing policies, ensure accountability and provide community leadership on behalf of the district and public education. To fulfill these responsibilities, there are a number of specific jobs that effective boards must carry out:
Effective Boards:
  • Involve the community, parents, students and staff in developing a common vision for the district focused on learning and achievement and responsive to the needs of all students.
  • Adopt, evaluate and update policies consistent with the law and the district's vision and goals.
  • Maintain accountability for student learning by adopting the district curriculum and monitoring student progress.
  • Hire and support the superintendent so that the vision, goals and policies of the district can be implemented.
  • Conduct regular and timely evaluations of the superintendent based on the vision, goals and performance of the district, and ensure that the superintendent holds district personnel accountable.
  • Adopt a fiscally responsible budget based on the district's vision and goals, and regularly monitor the fiscal health of the district.
  • Ensure that a safe and appropriate educational environment is provided to all students.
  • Provide community leadership on educational issues and advocate on behalf of students and public education at the local, state and federal levels.

    Governance Standards

    The Individual Trustee

    A trustee is a person elected to serve on a school district. Individual trustees bring unique skills, knowledge, and values to their board. In order to govern effectively, individual trustees must work with each other and the superintendent to ensure that a high quality education is provided to each student.
    To be effective, an individual trustee:
  • Keeps learning and achievement for all students as the primary focus.
  • Values, supports and advocates for public education.
  • Recognizes and respects differences of perspective and style on the board and among staff, students, parents and the community.
  • Acts with dignity, and understands the implications of demeanor and behavior.
  • Keeps confidential matters confidential.
  • Participates in professional development and commits the time and energy necessary to be an informed and effective leader.
  • Understands the distinctions between board and staff roles, and refrains from performing management functions that are the responsibility of the superintendent and staff.
  • Understands that authority rests with the board as a whole and not with individuals.
  • Believes that the District's student achievement focus is driven best by the establishment of learning achievement goals for all students. Goals should be set in collaboration with the Superintendent and Staff, who are responsible for formulating the actions/tactical plan to achieve the goals. Goals should be measurable in order to gauge District performance and tactical plan effectiveness.
  • Believes that the primary role of the Superintendent is to implement tactical plans to achieve the goals and the Superintendent must be given a consistently high level of support and encouragement in this difficult responsibility.
  • Understands that clear goal-setting helps to prevent the Board and Superintendent from being diverted from their primary student achievement goal. Wishy-washy goals undermine the rate of progress.
  • Understands that his/her performance is tied to the District goal performance and achievement. The Board is a team that fails or succeeds together.
  • Represents the entire Board in public, explains the Board's goals, and explains why non-goals need to be rejected in order to maintain focus on student achievement. The District "cannot be all things to all people" and also achieve its primary focus.
  • Understands that obstacles will come along in the implementation of tactical plans to the achievement of goals, portions of the community may or may not support every decision or the goals themselves, but after gaining public input on the matter as appropriate, it is the duty of the Board to move to a solution involving Board action, or support the Superintendent's actions.
  • Agrees that the "public process" should not be an excuse for ineffective untimely leadership in addressing obstacles. In short, time is of the essence in building a much stronger student-performance result for the children in the District.
  • Understands that advising the Superintendent on matters that he/she brings to the Board for feedback is not an invitation to Trustees to make the decision, removing Superintendent responsibility for the decision and action.

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