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Governing Coherently

If we are truly serious about each student achieving college or career readiness and graduate prepared for life, then school boards need to step up their game.


John Carver introduced the notion of a better way of governing called Policy Governance©. Randy Quinn and Linda Dawson, well versed in Carver’s model, improved on Carver’s work after working with boards for more than 30 years. An introduction to their approach, Coherent Governance©, can be found in their book, “Good Governance is a Choice: A Way to Re-create Your Board the Right Way”. It’s worth the read.

As Quinn and Dawson point out, “many board members simply don’t know what their jobs are” and find “themselves entrenched in a governing system so inherently inadequate that failure was unavoidable”. Having worked with boards, Quinn and Dawson are not insensitive to the dynamics many board members experience and understand why many boards “chose to succumb to the inertia that bound them to a role of mediocrity”. But, they also paint a clear and simple picture for a better way.


Quinn and Dawson make it clear that “the board, not the CEO or staff, should own the vision for where the organization is headed and assure that systems are in place to realize the long-term vision.”


To accomplish this, an overhaul of the board’s governance system is recommended which involves reducing the 5” policy manual to around 30 very clear and focused policies. These policies address Governance Culture, Board-CEO Relationships, Operational Expectations, and Results. And then the hard work begins…monitoring the implementation of those policies and holding responsible parties (including themselves) accountable for success.

Quinn and Dawson promise that if a board will do the hard work of implementing this approach with fidelity, they will realize significant results.


Having worked in a district that adopted Policy Governance, I know first-hand the value of this approach toward achieving the organization’s mission. The Coherent Governance approach proffered by Quinn and Dawson evolves Carver’s model in important ways informed by the application of the approach.


If we are to ensure the success of each of the precious children entrusted to us, the work needs to start with the board doing their part. It’s time for board meetings to stop majoring in the minors and get serious and focused on the mission of schools.


You can learn more about Quinn and Dawson's work at www.aspengroup.org.

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