Board Committees Take Governance to the Next Level

By Doug Eadie

In a column published in the February issue of American School Board Journal, I described one of the most important and practical tools for developing your school board’s governing capacity: Beefing up your members’ governing knowledge and sharpening their governing skills. This column looks at a second, even more important tool for building the board’s capacity: Using well-designed standing committees as “continuous governance improvement vehicles.”

These board standing committees -- in addition to preparing for regular board business meetings -- are responsible for incrementally updating and fine-tuning the processes for making judgments and decisions in their respective governing areas, in partnership with the superintendent and top administrators. Keep in mind that you can’t make use of just any board standing committees for this purpose. First, you must make sure your committees are well-designed, which means that they correspond to the broad streams of governing judgments and decisions that effective boards make.

The two pre-eminent governing streams in every organization, including school districts, are planning and performance monitoring. These are the bread- and-butter governance functions. A third, narrower stream is important but not as critical: community and stakeholder relations. This modern committee structure has proved to be highly effective in taking the governing performance of school boards to the next level.

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