Sunday, March 11, 2007

Open Thread on Policy Governance

Below, I have placed the soapbox the Board sent to the Coloradoan, which was published on Monday, March 5, 2007. It generated some interesting discussion on the Coloradoan's website; unfortunately, the posting is about to go into the archives. This posting is an open thread to provide an opportunity for people to continue the dialogue if they desire.

Policy Governance

As the pace of globalization increases, a significant amount of change will be required in our public schools. To provide the strategic leadership necessary for this, the Poudre School District Board of Education has adopted a new governance structure, called “Policy Governance.” With the basic adoption completed, we are continuing to talk with the community so that we can better define the District’s goals. Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to inform the community about how Policy Governance works.

First, Policy Governance is a well-established framework that many different boards have used to structure their work. The framework, in its most basic form, states that there are four main areas of policy that a board should concern itself with. These are:
  • District Ends – goals the Board establishes for PSD
  • Executive Limitation – limits on the Superintendent’s authority
  • Governance Process – how the Board manages itself
  • Board-Superintendent Relationship – division of responsibilities
This framework is designed to allow non-specialists (the citizen Board of Education) to be effective as we supervise and delegate appropriate amounts of authority to a highly qualified specialist (the Superintendent) to accomplish the Board’s goals.

Policy Governance carefully separates the goals established for the organization (the “Ends”) from how the goals will be achieved (the “Means”). The Board establishes the Ends. Generally, the Superintendent is responsible for the Means, with some exceptions – there are “means” which the Board feels are unacceptable to the citizens of PSD, or which belong to the Board – and these are carefully documented in policy.

We are currently engaged in a community dialog as write the District Ends policies. These are the policies that will tell the District:
  • What to teach
  • How district effectiveness should be measured
  • How important each goal is relative to the others.
Until we complete this work, the District’s previous goals, both explicitly stated as well as implied, remain in effect.

We believe the remaining areas of policy are complete as of the time of adoption.

Executive Limitation policies are designed to allow the Superintendent the maximum possible freedom to achieve the District Ends – without sacrificing the Board’s legal and moral obligation to be the citizens’ overseer of the District. These policies include, but are not limited to, policies concerning:
  • The rights of parents, students, staff, and PSD citizens.
  • Financial responsibility
  • Required public input before substantial change
According to Policy Governance, whatever is not prohibited is allowed. It is therefore very important that the Executive Limitation policies accurately reflect the values of PSD as a whole.

The Governance Process policies define the Board’s organization and how we perform our work. The Board-Superintendent Relationship policies specify how we divide our responsibilities, and how the Superintendent is directed and evaluated.

Finally, Policy Governance requires the Board, on a regular basis, to monitor compliance with its policies. This will give us a much better picture of District performance. It will also provide the community with assurances that our policies are being followed.

Policy Governance gives the PSD Board of Education a new set of tools that we can use to better serve the citizens of PSD. It does not remove any of the power that the Board formerly had; instead, it allows us to concentrate much more on our most important task: educating the children of PSD. It is important to note that these policies are not “cast in stone” – if you have concerns about specific policies, or the lack thereof, please feel free to share them with the Board.

Link to PSD’s Policy Governance policies:

Link to PSD’s Policy Governance page: