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Focusing on Policymaking

Policymaking is one of the school board’s most important functions. Through policy, the board sets the goals for the district and provides direction for administrators and others to follow while working toward achieving those goals. Every time the board makes a decision, it creates, reinforces, revises or negates policy.

What kind of decisions is your board making at board meetings? Are you spending your time making policy-level decisions that affect student learning, or are you spending your time making decisions that should be left to those individuals responsible for implementing board policies? If the latter case is true, it may be time for your board to re-focus its policymaking.

Boards can provide leadership for focusing their policymaking and actions on student achievement by adopting a district vision/mission, providing a structure that allows the vision/mission to be realized, providing for accountability and being advocates for education. This type of leadership can be provided no matter what size the district is or where it is located (rural, urban or suburban).

Vision (Clarify purpose)
  • Adopt a shared vision/mission based on community values
  • Keep students and student learning as focus
  • Continuously define, redefine and articulate mission/vision/high level goals
  • Communicate vision/mission to others
  • Use vision/mission to guide all decisionmaking (policymaking)
Structure (Create an environment that allows vision to be realized)
  • Establish policies that:
    1. reflect the district’s vision/mission
    2. clearly state what the district is to accomplish (what is wanted – outcomes/ends)
    3. clearly state the parameters within which the district’s work is to occur and what it will not tolerate (to what extent something should be done)
    4. lay out for the board the work it chooses to do and how it chooses to do the work (board governance/operating policies)
    5. clearly state how the board will work with the district administrator/staff and delegate authority and responsibilities
  • Hire a district administrator and hold that person accountable for carrying out the board’s policies, providing leadership for staff and managing the district
  • Provide the resources necessary to carry out the district’s vision/mission and board policies
Accountability (Monitor performance)
  • Continually assess progress and compliance with board policies and monitor student achievement
  • Evaluate district administrator and board performance (take responsibility for board activity and behavior)
  • Keep district focus on the vision/mission
  • Keep public informed (report back the district’s progress toward expectations/goals)
Advocacy (Connect with the community)
  • Work to help foster community support for the schools (engage in two-way conversations)
  • Work to build relationships with parents and others who support students
  • Promote the school in the community
  • Celebrate the school’s achievements
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