Strengthening connections with the community and focusing on policies that result in increased student achievement are two outcomes that the Adams County School District 14 (Adams 14) accomplishes by adopting a Policy Governance model.
Policy Governance, authored by John Carver and used by an increasing number of cities, nonprofits, and school boards across the country, applies a specific set of principles to the leadership role. These principles include governing the school district by focusing on results or clearly defined “ends” – what Adams 14 graduates should know, understand, and be able to do. By governing at this level, the board communicates to the superintendent on what the board expects to be accomplished and leaves the methods for accomplishing those goals up to the superintendent and all staff..
Policy Governance is a model of governance designed to empower the Adams 14 board to fulfill their obligation of accountability and fiduciary responsibility for the district they govern. Policy Governance allows the board to focus on larger issues, clearly delegate authority, and direct the superintendent without interfering and while continuously evaluating what is being accomplished.
Policy Governance is a new and effective change in the way the Adams 14 board members conceive of and do their job. It allows greater accountability and transparency. Board leadership is not just rhetoric, it is a reality.
The Adams 14 Board of Education received training and support from the Colorado Association of School Boards and Govern for Impact prior to adopting the Policy Governance model.
The board sets “board means.” These are the policies that describe the board’s job and how it directs the superintendent to achieve the “ends.” These also are referred to as the governance process.
The “board/superintendent relationship” defines the connection between the board and the superintendent, directs the board to act as a unit, creates accountability of the superintendent, delegation to the superintendent, and monitors superintendent performance.
The “ends” are the results the school board expects. The school board creates goals and priorities that define the ends. In this way, the board provides strategic leadership by clearly defining what is to be accomplished.
The superintendent does not have complete freedom in making decisions about how to accomplish the ends. “Executive limitations” are policies that define what methods cannot be used to get the expected results. In essence, the school board is preapproving all means that have not been expressly prohibited. This gives the superintendent the power to make decisions that create the desired ends.
By using Policy Governance, there are clearly defined ends that are expected to be achieved. That leaves the means of achieving those ends up to the superintendent and all staff who work under their direction. People with extensive professional preparation and experience make the decisions that affect student education.
Policies will clearly define the ends expected, allowing everyone to understand them. Policy Governance allows performance evaluations to be tied to the ends set by school district policies.
This approach emphasizes community values, well-educated students, systems accountability, and efficient use of administration and board time.
It allows the board to focus on general principles leaving details to the administration. Community involvement is an essential component.
The board sets forth clear expectations for student results and sets executive limitations under which the administration operates. The end goals and executive limitations are set within the parameters of the resources and the values of the community.
The superintendent focuses the resources and energy of the district to achieve the student results stated in the ends policy. The superintendent maintains fiscal integrity and protects district assets with fairness and respect for all while operating the district within executive limitations and while keeping the board well informed.
Until now, the board of education did not use a defined framework for district governance, instead governing by following state- or federally-mandated policies, procedures, regulations, and practices, based largely on tradition.
Through a board governance model, the superintendent is responsible for following board policies to manage the operations of the district. The board holds the superintendent accountable to meeting the goals it has set.