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School board considering changes in management model

  • Written by Bill Lewis

The Northshore School Board is considering a new system of setting goals for schools and evaluating the performance of the school superintendent.

The system, known as Policy Governance, requires the board to set specific “Ends” for school programs – that is, the outcomes that are expected of school policies, and their cost – as well as to establish standards for what the school superintendent and staff can do to meet those goals. The management model also includes periodic public updates on the district’s progress toward meeting the school board’s goals.

Policy Governance is a trademarked model for public and non-profit boards of directors, developed by author and consultant John Carver. In Washington state, the model is used by the Issaquah, Lake Washington, Federal Way and Bellingham school boards.

The Northshore board will talk about proposed policy at a study session March 28, and heard comment on it March 14 from parents and educators.

Joshua Sanchez, principal of Kenmore Junior High School, was among a group of Northshore school administrators who endorsed the model. Policy Governance would provide, he said, “better guidance in where we’re going and where we want to go.”

Carmen Dalziel, executive director of the Northshore Schools Foundation, also spoke in favor of the model, but urged the board to better explain Policy Governance and what its adoption would mean for the district. She called the explanation of policy governance on the board’s website “a very complex document” that is not likely to be understood by those without an education or management background.

School Board President Amy Cast said the board is providing information about Policy Governance to parent associations and other groups, and will continue to do so while the board considers whether to adopt the model.

According to the district’s explanation of Policy Governance, the model would require the school board to set specific goals and costs for district policies, and give the district superintendent considerable authority in carrying out the policies.

Instead of defining what the superintendent should do to meet goals, under Policy Governance the school board approves what are called “executive limitations,” or actions by the superintendent that are specifically prohibited.

That part of the model raised concerns among members of the HiCap Parents Council – the organization of parents of children enrolled in programs for highly capable students.

Angie Hancock, a council representative, told board members that although the organization has not taken a formal position on Policy Governance, its members are wary of the changes, and want the board “to retain control of both the big picture and the details.”

The new model, according to the school district’s explanation, would allow the board to concentrate on educational policies, while matters “that are primarily operational in nature – for example, the Integrated Pest Management Policy – would be operating policies that are written and managed by the superintendent.”

The board would continue to vote on operational policies that under state law require school board approval.

One effect of the changes would be that school board meetings would include more time for board members to review academic programs and the district’s progress in meeting its educational goals.

To illustrate how board meetings might change, the school board provides links to videos and podcasts of recent board meetings in the Issaquah, Lake Washington and Federal Way districts, on its website under Policy Governance.

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