Check out the range of resource materials available to school systems looking to adopt strategic governance.

The role of strategic governance is to help education leaders -- school boards and school administration -- create a desired future for their schools and students.  Strategic governance consists of two separate, related activities. The first engages residents, parents, teachers, students, and officials in identifying what matters most to their educational community and in envisioning a desired future in which those outcomes are attained and preserved. This is strategic thinking; it helps people decide what to achieve.

The second involves making that vision a reality. It entails framing and managing strategic initiatives as well as the day-to-day efforts of running a school system. This is operational governance; it helps ensure that the right things get done at the right time for the right expenditure of tax dollars, i.e., how to achieve it.

shaping the educational system

Without both, a school system will fail to serve its residents fully. If a community successfully envisions a desired future but fails to take relevant steps to make it a reality, it won't happen. Conversely, if officials simply forge ahead --  "doing what's always been done" -- without a clear framework for what they're trying to accomplish, there is little likelihood they will successfully meet expectations. As the old adage says, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there".

Strategic governance can help communities think through the most fundamental aspects of their educational system to ensure that they are deriving excellent educational outcomes for their students while making effective and efficient use of tax dollars in the process.

The primary roles of a school board are to create an educational vision, related goals, supporting budgets, and high-level policies. The superintendent’s role is to achieve the goals set by the school board with the budget provided. To do this, he must choose an educational approach that best aligns with the types of goals established by the board, then shape and oversee a system of schools, program of studies, curricula, staffing levels, educational support services, and facilities to achieve those goals. It should be up to him to propose facilities that work in concert with his broader plan. Currently, such a plan does not exist. And, together, they should engage the public, parents, students, and teachers in an ongoing, dynamic process that addresses four key questions:

  • Why and how should we educate students to thrive in the 21st century, and how will we know they (and we) are succeeding?
  • Which of several possible educational philosophies and related academic theories will best achieve those desired outcomes?
  • What system of schools, program of studies, teaching styles, and staffing will best align with the chosen academic approach?
  • What amount and types of educational spaces, supports, and technologies will be needed to underpin those efforts?

The answer to each question shapes how each subsequent question is addressed.

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Strategic governance creates a virtuous cycle in which everyone sees and contributes to shaping the future of the community. Through the creation of departmental plans, people gain a sense of what it may take to keep the community and schools running effectively and of what resources might be available for broader investments.

Strategic Governance for schools

While a community can set its own pace for implementing strategic governance, the process can take as little as a few months to go through the steps below.

The cycle of strategic governance

Strategic governance enables communities to understand their past, envision the future, and manage the present.

No plan, however strategic, should remain static, because we live in a constantly changing environment. So our process calls for plans to be refreshed at least annually to serve as relevant and useful guideposts. Plans are more likely to be achieved if people believe they are pragmatic and match the reality they deal with daily.