As part of professional development, and as recommended by our self-evaluation/governance consultant, trustees are now in a book club reading The Governance Core, by Davis Campbell[1] and Michael Fullan[2]. I'm a bit out of practice for reading actual books, so I'm going to publicly commit to taking notes and making comments to hold myself to actually reading the thing.

Back-tracking a bit. There's a 10-page Introduction, which sets out Fullan's thesis: good governance leads to an efficient board. Highlights:

  • Unifying a bunch of people (politicians) with a moral imperative
  • Coherence and systems thinking make local politicians more effective
  • Good governance is a learnable/practiseable skill

Oxford/Lexico defines effective as "successful in producing a desired or intended result." Campbell and Fullan define success as "bring[ing] about significant measurable improvements in the learning and lives of all students under their watch and care." (p.1)

They have other neat definitions too. They say politics is "holding and using power" and governance is "exercising authority on a daily basis." (p.2) Alignment is "when the main pieces are aligned, such as goals, finances, professional development, assessment, and so on." (p.9) Coherence is the "subjective side of alignment," (emphasis theirs) the emotional flip-side to alignment, which they consider rational. (p.9)

On to...

Notes for Chapter 1: "Moral Imperative and the Governance Core"

  • Board-Superintendent relationship should be more like cohesion with coherence being a mutual commitment – making actual sense to one other.
  • More definitions. A quote from Donald McAdams: "governance is steering; management is rowing." Authors quickly add, "unfortunately, it's not that simple." (p.15) It's about policy-making as well as oversight, and focusing on long-term strategic outcomes rather than short-term objectives or incremental tactical steps.
  • It gets interesting here. The authors lay out the Five Major Themes of Good Governance.
  • 1: Making a commitment to good governance – check.
  • 2: A shared moral imperative – a Kantian term with which I personally struggle because I don't believe in categorical imperatives, nor even that humans are rational beings (and therefore the search for rational morality is moot). But that's my baby-philosophy-student talking. Their example CIs are actually pretty good: "all children will achieve; we will not allow an achievement gap;" or "all children will have quality teachers;" or "all children will be in a safe, healthy learning environment." Authors deliberately contrasts good governance with being visionaries, and goes on to say that having a unified moral imperative is a much better driver for getting actual things done. Not to say we can't have both, but having a vision, say Campbell and Fullan, isn't sufficient for good governance. It seems that a solid statement of moral imperative is also a good vision statement, but not necessarily the other way around.
  • 3, 4: Effective governance happens when board and super have a governance mindset and are unified by a coherent purpose (the moral imperative).
  • 5: Lead from the middle. "You can't get system coherence from the top (too complex), and bottom-up change is too piecemeal. Where is the glue? [...] School districts and other intermediate agencies working together." (p.21) The authors call on local boards to be "proactive consumers" of state policy, so that we can implement/critique such policy and ultimately "contribute to the success of the overall system." (p.22)
  • Some more gentle reminders on striving for common ground like adults, especially during times of friction.

Chapter 2 will be up when it's up.

[1]: I found a bio here:

[2]: Fullan's bio on Wikipedia: