The Essential Elements of Governance
School boards are dedicated to ensuring that all our children develop as learners and as citizens. School board members dedicate themselves to ensuring that children can meet their potential. Today, we know much about how quality school board governance can lead to better outcomes for children.
Governance is the process where the direction of the organization is set, the structure is established and accountability both fiscal and programmatic is assured (Davis and Fullan, 2019).
The WASB Essential Elements of Governance informs school boards about what quality governance looks like for the children we serve. In designing the framework, the WASB has relied on a number of studies and reports that address quality school board governance. This framework clearly provides school boards with the specific ideas they need for their journeys toward better outcomes for all children.
The WASB is committed to providing supplemental information and training — both virtual and in-person — to help school boards incorporate this framework into their critically important work.
The WASB Essential Elements of Governance has five key elements:
Governing for High Levels of Learning for All Children
Effective school boards understand the research on governance practices that make more of a difference for children. They also commit as boards to consider how the findings of this research affect their governing role.
Board and superintendent roles and responsibilities include board operations (board meetings, policy development and board calendar); advocacy; establishing a positive governance culture; governing with ethics; and knowing how to function as a collective board/superintendent team.
Strategic Focus on the Future
School boards cannot afford to limit their focus to the present; they must consider the future needs of the children, school district and community. Quality boards will plan their futures by examining vision, mission and a moral imperative; understand key district data that impacts the future; and identify specific district goals and action plans to ensure future needs are met.
Communication and Engagement
As the key connector to the community, school boards have a need to communicate and engage stakeholders in proactive ways. Knowing and implementing effective communication and engagement roles of the board and superintendent is critical. Effective engagement strategies are paramount, as is an understanding of the need for modeling effective two-way communication.
Governing boards are generally responsible for the outcomes of the school district, and this work calls for effective teamwork with the superintendent and overall administration. Committing to continuous improvement and understanding how to use complex student-related data is key to this work. Other areas of accountability relate to fiscal matters and ensuring the district is accountable to the public for the resources that are provided. An additional accountability area is to ensure ongoing stability and growth related to leadership succession planning.
WASB consultants George Steffen and Roger Price explore the accountability portion of the Essential Elements of Governance framework.