Effective teams value and respect their essential functions, reach mutual agreement on the roles of the board and superintendent, and strive to operate within them.
There are important distinctions to be made between the board’s role and responsibilities and those of the superintendent and staff. Boards and superintendents must team together to ensure a district has effective leadership. Just as board members should govern and not manage a school district, superintendents should not administer a district in isolation from the representatives whom the public has entrusted with the schools. School board “trustees” are the representatives of the people, elected to ensure a community’s schools educate the community’s children in accordance with the wishes of the local community.
Board members have collective, not individual authority. Authority to make decisions is only granted to the board as a whole. The full board gives direction to the superintendent, through decisions reached at board meetings. Individual board members do not have the authority to direct the superintendent unless otherwise agreed to by the board and superintendent.
The responsibility of the school board is not to run the schools, but to see that the schools are well run. When a board member inadvertently takes over the staff role, he is in essence vacating his board seat and effectively undercutting his ability to govern. He is forfeiting his ability to hold the superintendent responsible for the way the board’s policy direction is translated into action by the professional staff.
How can the board support the superintendent in carrying out his/her responsibilities?
How can the superintendent support the board in carrying out its responsibilities?
The school board works collaboratively with the superintendent and school district staff to see that the best possible education is provided to district students. Three distinct roles are required within the district to make this happen:
THE BOARD: STRATEGIC ROLE
Transformational change: sets the direction: a strategic charge or target for change, and holds the system accountable for results
ADMINISTRATION: TACTICAL ROLE
Planning, alignment, logistics, resources, etc. – bridge between transformational and transitional change role: creates and launches plans to meet the strategic charge
Teachers and other staff: OPERATIONAL ROLE
Do the actual work – Transitional change: carry out the plans to achieve the intended results
All three of these roles have to be aligned and integrated. None of the roles can be successful without the others. The superintendent is the link between the roles. The superintendent supports the board’s governance responsibilities, and as the district’s chief leader, works with administration to see that plans are developed in alignment with the vision, and oversees district staff to see that district work is carried out in ways that will achieve the ultimate intended results.
The chart below gives a quick look at the actions associated with the board and the superintendent.
(based on goals)