Members of school boards face a thankless task that is far more difficult than most observers imagine. Unlike the members of many corporate boards, members of school boards are generally unpaid volunteers. They are dealing with topics that are highly emotional (children’s education), sometimes in an atmosphere that is politically charged (especially if some or all members are elected) where a high degree of stakeholder (and sometimes public) transparency is expected.
Within this culture of high expectations, it is hard to imagine any member of a school board being comfortable if untrained or unqualified teachers were being employed in the school or if the performance of teachers was not regularly appraised. It is therefore surprising that so few school boards regularly evaluate their own performance in the role of governance, especially given the fundamental importance of the board’s role and the significant difficulties that can arise if governance is not performed to a high standard of excellence.
It is very easy for board members to slip into a ‘comfort zone’ over time and thus not recognise areas where mediocrity may have unwittingly crept into the board’s performance. The main focus of a board performance review should not be finding out what is right or wrong, or who might be to blame for something; the singularly important focus ought to be enhancing the effectiveness of the board’s operations.
OPTIMAL SCHOOL GOVERNANCE has developed a thorough, research-based framework that uses evidence to evaluate either (or both) individual board members’ performances and the performance and effectiveness of the board as a whole. Performance reviews are conducted on a strictly confidential and neutral basis, thus removing the delicate task of reviewing others’ performances from anyone within the school, making it clear to everyone that it has been conducted in a fair, professional, transparent, politically neutral manner.
Board performance reviews are conducted on a 16x5 grid of factors that helps identify any broad patterns of areas where board performance can improve, together with an analysis of any likely causes of shortcomings. The process involves input from all board members and, if appropriate, related stakeholders.
The broad areas included in a full board review fall into four main areas:
These 16 factors are each considered with reference to 5 key areas:
The evaluation instrument used by OPTIMAL SCHOOL GOVERNANCE provides a school board with a very comprehensive evaluation tool that provides both a quantifiable measure of performance (especially if used repeatedly over time) and a learning tool to obtain a comprehensive view of the extent to which the school is achieving its mission and goals.
Undertaking a full board evaluation can be a complex and potentially time-consuming process if it is to capture the whole story. Typically a full and complete board evaluation would require:
Please contact us to discuss your board’s specific needs and to discuss the optimal approach to meet those needs.