- Published: Monday, 18 April 2016 08:50
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By Zya Hollyer - High School
Policy Governance is a multi-faceted, integrated leadership model. Primarily it serves as a system of policy organization with the objective of efficiently delegating responsibilities and connecting the ownership to the governing body. Policy Governance is spreading in popularity as more and more schools identify with the model’s ideals of integrity, quality and self accountability. For the most part, school boards and governing councils that implement Policy Governance have all had varying degrees of success. (www.carvergovernance.com/pg-np.htm) Through thourough research and personal experience, I have concluded that Policy Governance has massive potential, as well as a few problem areas.
Variations in success are mostly caused by localized issues, but usually they can be traced back to one key factor, accountability. In Policy Governance, the board or governing council has three main functions. First, to connect the operational organization (the school) with the ownership (students and their parents).This includes the integration of the ownership’s values and educational objectives. The second is policy development, ensuring that said prerogatives are the guiding forces behind the creation of new policies. The third is monitoring the performance of the organizational policies and ensuring that they aid the school’s progress in the manner intended. So the governing council is a product of the ownership and is second to their command, while the school director (CEO) is subject to the governing council , and the staff is under the CEO’s jurisdiction.
The governing council demonstrates its competence to the ownership through the policies it writes. There are four types of policies that the council will write and they all serve a very specific purpose. These policies can be broken down further into Ends and Means. Policies about Governance process, (which includes how the meetings are orchestrated and policy is written) board management delegation, (anything pertaining to the communication/delegation of responsibilities within the board and to the CEO) and Executive Limitations ( specifications concerning only how the CEO may NOT conduct business) all fall under the Means category. Ends policies are rather self explanatory and pertain purely to the goals of the organization, or its purpose. It is in the Ends policies that you can most clearly see the influence of the ownership. And thus we have come in a full-ish circle and can hopefully observe the effects of each of these parts on another.
Policy Governance embodies the elegance and functionality that can only be achieved through transparency, accountability and quality effort. And therein lies its greatest fault. Because it is unlikely that every person in the ownership will be infallibly responsible and dedicated, you cannot rely purely on the good intentions of the community. The model offers no surefire way to hold the ownership accountable, and as a result they are often not. The board may hold all of the public meetings they wish but they cannot force participation. Such is the case in my school, that a few well meaning individuals are left to represent the entire community. Periodically this causes misunderstandings, and the council is faced with the berations and aggressions of those who do not understand Policy Governance and thus do not know how to properly make a case for the council to consider. I have noticed that the individuals with objections are rarely the same ones who attend governing council meetings, so it seems reasonable to conclude that they are upset because they feel their voices are not being heard. But if the council is under the jurisdiction of the ownership then how could this be? Again, it is simple lack of accountability. But can you honestly expect every single community member to just magically have a thorough understanding of their school’s governance? The answer is no. On the other hand, is the purpose of a school not to educate? My solution to this accountability paradox is... More accountability! If the choice were mine, ownership would be subject to mandatory volunteer practices, a set amount for anybody that directly benefits from the school (mostly parents). This would include periodic workshops on the dynamics and subtleties of Policy Governance, as well as time on the actual council. To create more fluidity within the governance process and allow for a rotating cast of parent volunteers, all school policies would need to be classified as prerequisite knowledge before enrolling their children. Additionally, as students move through the curriculum they would also learn about Policy Governance and perhaps even form their own student council in coalition with the Governing Council.
Because Policy Governance holds its participants to such high standards, it is essential that thoughtful and precise work form the foundation for any progress. Therefore, in the interest of fulfilling the lofty ideals of transparency, integrity and quality that Policy Governance claims, I believe that this revision (or a similar one) is necessary. Of the three functions that Policy Governance serves, connecting the ownership to the operational organization is the most important. Without that link, the system is subject to the personal agendas of its constituents, and its functional integrity is compromised. To be very clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with pursuing such magnanimous ends; but relying on the accountability of individuals without anything in place to hold them accountable is foolish and would only work in a utopian scenario. This is not to say that people are inherently irresponsible, but without insight and instruction, you could not possibly expect the community to be an asset in the complex and nuanced enterprise that is Policy Governance. As a student that has been personally indoctrinated into the methods of Policy Governance, I know that understanding such a system is universally achievable and absolutely imperative. Additionally, I believe that this entire dynamic, of depending on accountability and people not being held accountable is an eerie reflection of our planet's political state. It is no coincidence that our government is corrupt and its ownership uneducated. Understanding leads to empowerment and progress, and what better place to sow the seeds of knowledge than our very own school.