School Board Governance : Best Practices

Just as the corporate board exists to speak for the shareholders, the School Board exists to represent and to speak for the interests of the owners. Members of the School Board may be elected or appointed to serve on the Board. The School Boards play an important role in the general oversight and management of the school and in ensuring that student achievement is given priority. The authority of the Board is usually delegated to it by the Board of Directors, or by the Constitution of the organisation in the case of a Board of Trustees.
It is important to note that the body charged with authority and accountability is the Board as a group, not individual Board members. It is the Board as a body that speaks for the ownership, not each Board member, except as he or she contributes to the final Board decision or when expressly given the authority to speak on behalf of the Board. Roles and responsibilities may be delegated for individual Board members, but these must be derived from the roles and responsibilities of the Board as a group, not the other way around. Therefore, Board practices must recognise that it is the Board, not Board members, who have authority.
For the School Board to succeed it has to:
1. Be definite about its performance expectations from the Principal and Staff;.
2. Communicate these expectations clearly, and
3. Ensure that it monitors to see that the expectations are being met.
The expectation of the Board should be contained in a Governance Document. This Governance Document should contain policies that state the vision and goals of the School Board for the students of the school. These policies are often referred to as ‘Board’s ends policies’. Ends policies speak about one or more of three topics:
1. The results (benefit or change) for which the organisation exists
2. The people for whom the results must be achieved
3. Statements about the worth or priority of achieving the results.
Anything else that the Board has to say to the staff (other than the above three points) must be about means. In order to keep this distinction simple, it is said that if the statement is not about ends, it must be about means. The Board does not describe the means to achieving the ends. Those who are accountable for achieving the ends are also accountable for developing all their own means.
Even though the Board may not tell the Principal and staff what means they should adopt, the Board may, through its policies, instruct those who are accountable for producing the results to behave efficiently, ethically and prudently.
The Board must take its supervisory function seriously. Monitoring and evaluation must speak directly to whether Board expectations are being fulfilled. Monitoring should always cover the expectations set by the Board in its Ends and Executive Limitations policies.
School boards have the responsibility to make decisions regarding the health and safety of their students. This includes assessing risks and ensuring that the best interests of all their students, teachers, administrators, parents and the school community are being considered.
Overall, some of the responsibilities of School boards include:
1. Setting goals for student achievement, ensuring education stays in step with today’s world.
2. Making policy to guide the school administration and staff toward Board goals.
3. Evaluating the school Principal.
4. Planning and setting priorities for the school system in light of needs, available resources and sound educational practice.
5. Adopting an annual budget for the school system.
6. Communicating with the school community and staff on behalf of the owners.
7. Ensuring that quality education is given a high priority and to make people aware of the school’s achievements.
8. Gathering information in order to make sound decisions.
Finally, some qualities of effective school boards have been identified as follows:
1. Focus on student achievement – Commit to a vision of high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction and define clear goals toward that vision.
2. Engage the school community and stakeholders – Foster 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 Board goals.
3. Embrace and monitor data, even when the information is negative, and use it to drive continuous improvement.
4. Give time and energy to devote to Board business.
5. Allocate resources to needs.


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