From the Board of Education: Running an Effective and Efficient School Board through Policy Governance

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  • Board of Education

November 2021 Broadcast Communication article form the Board of Education.

Since 2005 the Howard-Suamico School Board has leveraged the Policy Governance® Model of board leadership. This model can look and feel quite different from a typical school board, but every HSSD board since 2005 has re-affirmed the usefulness of the model, and worked to refine and improve it over time.

Put simply, Policy Governance® tasks a board with focusing on organizational ENDS (the outcomes the board expects the organization to achieve), rather than MEANS (how we achieve those outcomes). Rather than defining how to achieve the ENDS, the board sets limitations on the acceptable MEANS. This allows the organization’s chief executive (or superintendent in our case) the latitude to achieve the ENDS in any way they see fit – within the boundaries set by the board. This concept is often called “freedom within fences.”

In a school district setting, Policy Governance® allows a board to focus on the most important organizational purposes (ENDS), while delegating the daily operations of the district to the skilled professionals best suited to the job. The board then monitors performance as a measure of how effectively the ENDS have been met, and the degree to which the superintendent has remained within the defined limitations. The board also monitors its own practices and its interactions with the superintendent, and is involved in continuous improvement and refinement of the model to fit the ever-changing needs of a 21st Century school district.

To the outside observer, this governance model may feel like a system in which the superintendent operates independently and with unilateral authority. In reality, the board serves as not only the ultimate governing authority in the district, but an essential link between the residents of the district (called Owners) and the superintendent. The board represents the public’s interests to the superintendent, and holds the superintendent accountable to meet the high standards expected by the district.

“A carefully crafted, conceptually rigorous purpose of governance….forms the heart of board effectiveness.” ~ John Carver, creator of the Policy Governance model

For more information about the Howard-Suamico School District Policy Governance Manual please visit our website at

  • Board of Education