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Charter Board Partners

Governance is Rad!

November 07, 2017 | by Kate Essex
The CBP team transported themselves back to the 80's recently. It was totally rad, like "governance."

Recently, our communications advisor gently scolded us for using the term “governance” to describe our work. While it is indeed our focus, his point was that the word itself doesn’t mean much to non-governance geeks out there, is way too general, and, frankly, puts people to sleep. 

I will admit, when people ask me what I do, my answer, “I work to strengthen charter school governance,” either earns me a few half-hearted follow-up questions or, most frequently, just a polite “uh-huh” response. To David’s point, the word itself sounds static, stuffy, and vague. Even the definition is lame. The Oxford English Dictionary defines governance as: “The action or manner of governing a state, organization, etc.” I lost you, didn’t I? 

Don't stop reading now! I can explain.

At CBP we do think governance is rad (sorry, David). But maybe that word needs to be replaced by what it actually means to us: ensuring that a school is delivering results for the children it serves, not just today, or for the next year, but for generations of students whose lives are forever changed because of the time they spent in a truly great school. 

Kate Essex

To us, choosing to participate in the oversight of a public charter school means committing to an important and complex responsibility. Governance in action is: 

  • Volunteer citizens coming together to set up policies, practices, and an organizational culture that will keep a school going strong, and maybe even growing and replicating.
  • Ensuring that delivering high outcomes for kids does not depend on one or two talented individuals who founded the organization.
  • Creating an inclusive and diverse culture around the board table, which welcomes and considers different perspectives, which then, in turn, influence the culture and behaviors of the school itself.
  • At its core: leadership and teamwork. It’s a group of people working together to make incredibly hard decisions, including: allocating resources in the best interests of all students; supporting and evaluating the leader you have entrusted to run the day-to-day operations of the school; and recognizing when to concede that your program is not delivering results that you promised your families (and then being proactive about what happens next). 

Excited now? In the end, no matter what words we use, governance is not that sexy. But it couldn’t be more important. We firmly believe that this highly-focused model of school-level accountability and oversight has the potential to ensure that every charter school makes good on its promises to kids and families. Sexy or not, there is no denying the importance or the urgency of that charge. 

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