4 Steps Public Governing Bodies Can Take Towards Modern Governance

By Dottie Schindlinger

Through our interactions with public governing bodies, we’ve learned a few things: Good governance is dynamic—it can look a little different from one organization to the next. Yet, there are a few modern governance principles that hold constant.

1. Re-examine the governance structure you’ve inherited.

When you join a school board or council, you’re inheriting a governance structure (i.e., an existing set of rules, roles and processes that govern the board and the broader community). New members must get up to speed quickly on necessary processes and protocol, but they can also offer a fresh perspective on how things could be done better. School board and council members should not be afraid to re-examine or challenge the current processes that are in place and ask, “Can we be doing this a better way?” Keeping a close eye on the effectiveness of your current governance structure will allow your public governing body to more precisely pinpoint areas of improvement.

2. Focus on board composition and development.

Public boards that support the principles of modern governance align board and council skills with long-term strategy; they see diversity of all kinds as an advantage, not a requirement. However, executing on these principles is where many public governing bodies fall short. Modern boards and councils must work to identify gaps, understand the skills and perspectives required to answer the needs of the community and district, and recognize any potential conflicts of interest.

3. Improve visibility around key risks and opportunities.

For today’s communities, it’s not enough to simply identify key organizational risks—public boards must then design the dashboards, reporting frameworks, and info-gathering networks that allow them to monitor these risks and identify red flags. A modern governance product solution ensures that school boards and councils remain aligned with their goals with strategic progress tracking, that they establish sound policy, and that they stay in compliance with open meeting laws and regulations.

4. Avoid easy cyber mistakes.

School board and council members are notoriously guilty of using text messaging or personal email to share sensitive information and materials. For public boards, discussing board or council business outside of scheduled meetings not only violates open meeting laws, but puts district information at risk. Public governing bodies that practice modern governance do not make these mistakes; they centralize board and management collaboration using role-based authorizations, while also ensuring that the public has easy access to required information.


Over the next several weeks and beyond, we’ll be exploring the impact of good governance, sharing best practices, and celebrating the school districts, local governments, board and council members who are doing it well. Stay tuned!

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