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A Case for School Board Performance Review

By Steve Charbonneau
A Case for School Board Performance Review

In September 2014, my school board adopted the goal of developing a means by which to evaluate its own effectiveness and appointed me to chair the committee created to realize that goal. Initially, I made queries via the Principals’ Training Center Google Group and the Association for the Advancement of International Education’s (AAIE) Headnet mailing list for advice and assistance. In addition, I reached out to mentors and colleagues I had met over the years in search of resources. Not surprisingly, networking paid off and resources were gathered as a result of those efforts. It’s good to have friends!
What was surprising was the overwhelming number of responses received from colleagues whose school boards had no history of having their effectiveness appraised. These colleagues had a keen interest in hearing about my school board’s journey toward implementing a successful evaluative process and asked that l share the final evaluation protocol we would adopt. In fact, the response from these inquisitive colleagues was so robust that it inspired me to write this article in the hopes that it might be beneficial to other international schools.
Why should school boards adopt a process to have their own effectiveness appraised? The school board’s greatest responsibility is to hire and evaluate the school’s head. The board is to evaluate the school head’s effectiveness, for as CEO of the school the head must be held accountable for his or her leadership in that most critical position (Ontario School Trustees 2014). That is simply common sense. Therefore, it is also common sense that the school board’s effectiveness be evaluated. After all, the school board is in a position to impact all facets of the school’s program. In fact, trustee associations around the globe encourage school boards to have a method in place to appraise their own performance.
For example, New Zealand’s Ministry of Education (2014) directs its school boards, as the school’s ultimate authority, to consider their performance to be an integral part of the school’s performance as a whole. From this standpoint, New Zealand’s Ministry of Education advocates for school boards to have their performance appraised based on goals it has set and on its established responsibilities. Ontario School Trustees (2014) are explicit in their position that the school board is “is accountable for its performance.” And from the United States, “The most effective boards take time every year to assess their performance in an effort to hone their leadership ability and better serve their schools”(National Association of Independent Schools 2014). Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (2014) concurs by stating, “It is important for Boards of Trustees to appraise their effectiveness in school governance.”
A school board that truly desires to grow its skill set to manage the school will want a meaningful and thoughtful process for appraising its own effectiveness. ISM reports that, historically, the evaluation of school boards has been either nonexistent or implemented ineffectively. ISM explains further that, even when school boards had their effectiveness assessed, discussions around the results of the appraisal led to little or no action after completing their evaluations (Independent School Management 2014). It is clear; it is not just a matter of the school board adopting a means by which to evaluate its own effectiveness. It must be a quality process in which the board is authentically engaged if it is to yield meaningful results—results that will ultimately benefit the school community.
My own school board has just begun its journey toward adopting a method to evaluate its effectiveness. Logically, that journey was initiated with research. I have shared some of the results of that research here. As I have highlighted, there is much in the literature indicating that high-performing school boards reflect on their own practice by having their effectiveness evaluated. Simply put, the ultimate responsibility of school boards is to serve students. The most student-centered school boards are interested in performing at the highest level, because they want to develop their school toward excellence in order to optimally benefit the students under their care.
Steve Charbonneau is Principal and Ex Officio Board Member of The American School of Kinshasa.

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04/03/2015 - Rob Thompson, ISKL
This is a critical area of focus for all international schools. Excellent boards that perform their fiduciary responsibilities well and support student learning by providing leadership at a strategic level by engaging in generative discussions with school administrators are essential to high performing school. Boards that ignore these basic principles of governance do their schools a great disservice. Those of us in schools that focus on Board professional development and education should share our knowledge. There are many opportunities at regional conferences around the world to participate in this process.



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