Governance Policies & Board Committees

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  • Governance is the allocation of responsibilities within an organization. One of the most important roles of the Governing Board is to identify goals for the purpose of better serving the people of the County, students, employees. How do you know if you are succeeding? Establishes a framework for accountability to your constituents. Policies and procedures to be adopted by boards in order to support oversight obligations and enhance efficient governance
  • Your governance policies provide ongoing guidance and direction to the board itself and to the school system as a whole.  Do not use a cookie-cutter for your governance policies. These policies speak to the heart of your school and community. You should not take an all-purpose, one-size-fits-all approach to these matters.
  • In the wake of enormously costly scandals in the private sector, board governance (and the policies effecting it) has come under increased scrutiny and renewed interest. redefined corporate responsibility. School officials need to understand this climate for increased responsibility when exercising their own oversight obligations.
  • Move??
  • Moreover, while school boards had in the past left the goal of student achievement to administration, many states including North Carolina, now School boards today face traditional challenges such as adequate finances and talented staff. In addition, they face state and federal mandates, greater public apathy, lack of confidence, demographically diverse student populations, increased students with limited use of the English language, high-stake special education, and lawsuits.
  • micromanagers, single-issue board members, superintendent churn & turn, board members with poor social skills, lacking in interpersonal conflict resolution skills and little if any compromise ability
  • without proper policies/practices/procedures, even “good” boards can lose their way or fail to improve their governing ability and/or their schools. These boards can start to suffer from:Lack of clear focusRole confusionUseless policyFix-it mentalityShort-term focus Audience courting ShowboatingBreaching confidentialitySingle-mindednessDoes not follow the chain of command/protocols“Fix it” mentalityMeddles in day-to-day operations and staff workmicro-management by the board,role confusion between the board and superintendent,interpersonal conflict between the board and the superintendent,poor communication by the superintendent to the board,lack of trust and respect between the superintendent and the board,bickering among board members or between board members and the superintendent,board member actions reflecting their personal interests,board members’ disregard for the agenda process and the chain-of-command,board members’ playing to the news media, andlimited commitment by board members to improving governance.
  • Last year, the poster child for school governance “gone terribly awry” was the Clayton County school board. The board was accused of mistreating staff, micromanagement, violating ethics and open meetings laws. One member was removed for living outside the district, others resigned under public pressure and the governor removed the rest. When the superintendent left and an interim principal was appointed, the job of governance went by the waste side and the schools system grew more dysfunctional.
  • The dysfunction in the governance of the Clayton County, GA board was so bad While, the school district eventually regained its accreditation, the community is still reeling.
  • The board also has the option of having new school board members sign a statement affirming the code of ethics. It is also a good idea annually to re-read and have existing board members re-affirm the board’s code of ethics. This annual revisit means board members are more likely to reflect on the consequences of their words and behavior and to act on perceived improprieties they see.Don’t see it as a dead policy that’s in the book, ethics is important, ethics is every day, ethics is living. Ethics Codes encourage respect for divergent views and dissenting voices,
  • When the other board members took offense, claimed it was a conflict, and violated the ethics code, he sued them for keeping him out of closed session meetings discussing the lawsuit he and his client had brought against the school system.
  • It is a criminal offense to retaliate against anyone who provides information relating to commission or possible commission of federal offense. Penalty can include fine and/or imprisonment up to 10 years.
  • she was transferred to a small school with asmaller salary and less prestige. She also claimed that in retaliation she waslater placed on an administrative leave for allegations against her of improperbehavior toward students. The principal was reinstated by the school board bycommunity pressure but prior to the State Department of Children andFamilies’ determination that the allegations were unsubstantiated. The Boarddenied that it acted improperly. $140,000 settlement- High school vice principal accused the district of firing her in retaliation for blowing the whistle on grade fixing for a student athlete. $336,000 + $47,400 - The CDC funded employee hired to do HIV research reported to the CDC that she was being forced to teach CPR and health lessons and claimed this was misappropriation of funds.
  • The penalty assessed for violations include fines and up to 20 years in prison
  • School board committees are moving away from silo committees that follow the school system divisions and are seen as encouraging micromanagement by the board. Proponents of this committee structure indicate that these committees allowed each board member to become an “expert” in all areas as they cycled from committee to committee. Further, the committees were able to give particular matters in-depth attention and continued to fine-tune content and processes.   Of interest to boards with less than 7 members; virtual committees
  • The board operations committee:Headed by your board president and consisting of the chairs of the other standing committees, board operations (often called “governance”) is essentially a committee that reviews the management and coordination of your school board. This committee is responsible for continuous development of your board’s governing capacity, coordination of standing committee work, preparation of full board meeting agendas, and maintenance of the board-superintendent working relationship.The planning and development committee: This committee is responsible for working closely with your superintendent in mapping out the board’s role in strategic and operational planning/ budget development. It recommends key planning “products” to the board, such as an updated district vision statement, a set of strategic goals, and, of course, the annual budget.
  • The performance oversight and monitoring committee: This committeeis responsible for working closelywith your superintendent in designingeducational and financial performancereports that are appropriate for boardreview. Committee members also monitorthe performance of all of your district’seducational functions, buildings,and administrative units.The external relations committee:Members are concerned with community involvement, image building, and public relations. They work to clarify your district’s desired public image, oversee the formulation of strategies to promote the image, and maintain effective communication and working relationships with important community leaders.
  • The best way to deal with fraud in the business office is to implement policies and procedures that will avoid it altogether. The board is also responsible for hiring well-trained, honest, and competent administrators. Administrators, in turn, are responsible for adopting and implementing the internal controls required by the school board. They should also look out for and alert the school board to any weaknesses in the internal control system. While most of Sarbanes-Oxley is not legally applicable to public school districts, the practices that it establishes for ensuring accurate financial reporting, increased accountability, and to disclose and attest to true and accurate financial conditions, to increase financial transparency and accountability, and to design internal financial controls may serve as a model of good business practices, which school boards may want to consider adopting voluntarily. Audit committee mandates may focus exclusively on financial and risk management. Boards that wish to audit a wider range of functions would not be prevented from doing so and they may extend to reviewing and making recommendations on a broader range of issues, including protection of the board’s reputation, environmental stewardship and the board’s relations with its employees. Audit committees provide valuable oversight of the board’s policies and administrative /financial controls, and can assist boards in governing in a transparent, fiscally prudent manner. Audit committees are “expert” committees in that their members need to have sufficient knowledge of accounting principles and related management processes in order to evaluate the information associated with activities under their purview. A common practice is to appoint to the audit committee one or more appropriately qualified external members who can be fully objective and who are professionally experienced in financial matters.
  • In the Elizabeth School District, a $2.25 million shortfall in a $30 million budget was discovered in the 2002-2003 school year. The district’s chief financial officer used school bond money to cover cash-flow problems and violated school budget statutes. The superintendent altered his contract in three separate school years. At a public meeting, he stated his salary was $123,000; it was actually $177,000. The CFO altered her contract to get extra $6,000 to $13,000 per year. The superintendent and CFO were found guilty of fraud and embezzlement, and each received six-year jail sentences. However, the judge did not let the school board off the hook, finding there was plenty of blame to go around. When a school board says ‘We may be stupid but we are not liars,’ something is terribly wrong.”1. In the Roslyn Union Free School District, Long Island, criminal investigation is ongoing into a possible multimillion- dollar embezzlement scheme allegedly involving the superintendent, the assistant superintendent for business and finance, and an accounts payable clerk who is related to the assistant superintendent. The alleged theft of approximately $12 million involves use of district credit cards to charge personal expenses and use of district funds to pay questionable expenses, including personal dry cleaning bills, rent, personal travel costs, four home mortgages, a Lexus automobile, motorized water scooters, and extensive personal credit card debt.10 years of theft by the treasurer to a total $3.7 million. It is not a leap to posit that audit committees are especially important in North Carolina where the
  • An audit committee should comprise a minimum of two members, where possible with appropriate knowledge of financial reporting, and at least one external member who has experience with financial and operational management and an understanding of accounting principles.
  • But achieving constructive change may mean rethinking your board’s decision- making role. The dialogue at the board table must focus on aligning resources with district priorities, assessing the district’s progress in meeting its stated goals, and looking for areas of systemic improvement. Each and every school board member can help make this vision a reality. Our nation’s financial security and our democracy depend on it. 
  • Vision (sets the “Direction”) creating a powerful and compelling vision is a priority for school boards. Goal setting and long-range and strategic planning are part of the vision creation process. Critically evaluate past and present plans and achievements; identify trends and emerging issues, including the impact on existing policies and revise goals and vision in light of all information.  Accountability (monitors, analyzes and reports school performances with incentives for success and consequences for failureStructure (establishes system wide standards and strategically aligns resources and policies to support themAdvocacy (leaders of and for the community and engages stakeholders and partners with the community) [DeKalb county, GA – ADOPTED THE MOTTO “THE SCHOOL CANNOT LIVE APART FROM THE COMMUNITY.” In furtherance of this stated vision, the board committed to the following:30-90 minutes scheduled prior to each board session for community members to commentCommunity representatives involved with studies to establish need to new schoolsCommunity forums are held in each board member’s district School Community Action Teams link community and staff in working on issues to improve school climate and instructional programSpecial education task force was formed to improve services to special needs children. Conduct and Ethics (minimum standards)

Transcript

  • 1. GovernancePolicies & Board CommitteesPurpose, Performance and Practices
    Tanya J. Giovanni
    Staff Attorney
    NCSBA
    Policy Conference
    June 18 & 19, 2009
  • 2. Disclaimer
    THIS INFORMATION IS INTENDED AS AN AID FOR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS AND IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE.
    FOR SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE, PLEASE CONSULT YOUR BOARD ATTORNEY.
  • 3. Let the Sun Shine In
    Transparency and accountability should not only come after a lawsuit or a grassroots effort to get rid of the board.
    As stewards of the public trust, school boards have a very important responsibility to ensure the school system is run wisely, efficiently and properly.
  • 4. Good governance . . .
    • provides a framework and a process for the allocation of decision-making powers.
    • 5. requires clarity and a shared understanding of roles, responsibilities, rules and reporting.
    • 6. sets forth what the school system is and how it will conduct itself.
  • Boards committed to good governance . . .
    • are accountable and provide oversight.
    • 7. have a stable, and economically viable work environment for staff
    • 8. have an educational environment for students that targets success and achievement
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act
    Financial advisors, auditors, attorneys, companies providing liability insurance, bond rating agencies, or members of corporate boards of directors may expect that the practices mandated by Sarbanes-Oxley should also be applied to oversight of public school operations.
    Courts may look to this redefined responsibility to help define the school official’s duty of care.
  • 9. Good School Board Governance
    □ Clearly stated mission that includes high expectations for student achievement
    □ Allocation of resources in support of the stated goals
    □ Board holds its system accountable for student achievement through the superintendent by regularly monitoring evidence of student achievement
  • 10. Good School Board Governance
    □ Engages constituents in the creation of policies that affect them and communicates its progress in raising student achievement
    □ Board monitors its own performance and takes action to continually improve its governance processes.
  • 11. Good School Board Governance
    □ Focus by the board on student achievement and policy
    □ Effective management by the board without micromanagement
    □ Trusting and collaborative relationship between the board and superintendent
    □ Evaluation of the superintendent according to mutually agreed upon procedures
  • 12. Good School Board Governance
    □ Effective communication between the board chair and superintendent and among board members
    □ Effective board communication with the community
    □ Governance retreats for evaluation and goal setting purposes
  • 13. Present Time
    School boards are responsible for virtually every aspect of education.
    A very real and pressing need for ongoing training and board development in school governance to meet these statutory demands.
    No longer just sit overseeing legal compliance; boards have affirmative duties and are accountable for meeting academic performance standards.
  • 14. EFFECTS OF POOR GOVERNANCE
  • 15. Failure to Thrive
  • 16. What else happens when governance goes wrong
    Board behavior was so bad the board attorney resigned.
    The school district lost almost $550,000,000 Million Dollars in housing equity and untold amounts in lost business opportunities.
  • 17. What is the worst that could happen?
    • The school lost its accreditation with Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
    • 18. The new board advises it is heavily focused on training in boardsmanship, parliamentary procedure, ethics, finances, conducting meetings.
  •  Best Practices
    Board Authority & Duties --- NCSBA Policy 1010
    Governing Principles ---NCSBA Policy 1100
    Operational Goals ---NCSBA Policy 2000
    Code of Ethics ---NCSBA Policy 2120
    Retaliation---NCSBA Policy 1760/7280
  • 19. Best Practices
    Whistleblower --- Generic Sample
    Conflicts of Interest ---NCSBA Policy 2121
    Conflict Disclosure Form --- Generic Sample
    Gift & Disclosure Form --- Generic Sample
  • 20. Code of Ethics/Conduct
    Policies should provide guidance on proper conduct, civility and communication within the board and between board members and the public.
    Board should adopt a code of ethics that exemplifies highest standards of conduct.
  • 21. Conflicts of Interest
    A sitting board member, who was also a licensed attorney, represented a former teacher who was suing the school board and attempted to participate as both the attorney and a board member in the dispute.
    IRS Form 990 best practices suggest a disclosure form that raises the bar on disclosure of actual and potential conflicts.
  • 22. Whistleblower Protection
    One of the only express provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley that applies to schools is the requirement that the entity have a written whistleblower policy that provides a place to report illegal conduct, anonymity for whistleblower, and procedures for handling complaints
  • 23. Litigation is Big Business
    $2,003,000 verdict – An elementary school principal alleged that after she reported two teachers for abusing children she was transferred and placed on leave in retaliation.
    $1,000,000 verdict- Two teachers reporting alleged improper test procedures.
     
  • 24. RECOMMENDATION
    Retaliation/whistleblower claims are currently a hot area. The large verdicts indicate juries are sympathetic to employees who report alleged wrongdoing by school systems.
    Consult your board attorney before taking any personnel action that could result in a whistleblower claim.
  • 25. Document Retention and Destruction Policy
    Sarbanes Oxley--- Makes it a criminal offense for:
    “any organization” to knowingly alter, destroy, mutilate, conceal, cover up or falsify any record, document or tangible object, with intent to impede, obstruct or influence the investigation or administration of any matter within jurisdiction of any US agency or bankruptcy case.
  • 26. Contemporary Committee Structures
    The current practice recommends that board committees follow the four key governing functions:
    1. Board operations and coordination;
    2. Strategic and operational planning/budget preparation;
    3. Performance oversight and monitoring; and
    4. External/community relations.
  • 27. Standing committees
    A governance or executive committee responsible for planning board agendas and coordinating the work of the other standing committees.
    A planning committee responsible for overseeing board involvement in strategic and operational planning and annual budget preparation and for reviewing and recommending key planning actions to the board.
  • 28. Standing committees (cont.)
    A performance-monitoring committee responsible for keeping track of educational and financial performance and for recommending updated operating policies to the board as appropriate.
    An external affairs committee responsible for overseeing the relationship with the public at large and with key people in the community.
  • 29. Audit Committees
     
    In the final analysis, the school board is ultimately responsible for adopting system-wide policy and philosophy, including the internal financial controls to protect the school system’s assets.
    Audit committees are quickly becoming a necessary and best practice in board governance.
  • 30. Expensive Lessons
     A $2.25 million dollar budget shortfall results in criminal convictions and the school board saying ‘We may be stupid but we are not liars.’
     
    School finance officer serves at the “pleasure” of the superintendent. N.C.G.S. §115C-435.
     
    $12 Million dollars charged to pay dry cleaning bills, rent, personal travel costs, four mortgages, a Lexus and Jet Skis.
  • 31. RECOMMENDATION
    Establish an audit committee as a standing committee of the board to provide oversight of financial policy and practices and to report on the management of risk.
     
     
     
  • 32. “Where was the school board?”
     
    Boards need to spend time talkingabout governance. A retreat to fine-tune your governance policies and practices can do wonders for your school system.
    By governing the public schools, boards of education play a critical role in bringing about needed change in education.
  • 33. The heart of education governance
    The interaction between teacher and student in the classroom is greatly affected by the innumerable large and small decisions made by school boards. These decisions, large and small, can either help or hinder achievement in that very same classroom.