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March 15, 2010

When a Charter Board develops its initial set of “performance expectations” for the Academy, it is appropriate to start in the Management Boundaries area.  In this area, the Board first establishes a number of expectations categories.  Each category begins with a more general statement of what is expected of management, followed by specific individual expectations within that category.  The list of individual expectations within the category identifies the particulars that specifically merit Board oversight. 

When a Board establishes expectations in this area, it is best to approach the task by asking two related questions:
1.  What are the conditions, characteristics and requirements of school operations that will reflect and address the Board’s priorities for prudent and ethical school management?
2.  Does the topic reach a threshold of importance that justifies Board attention and oversight? 
The first requirement is intended to steer the Board away from preoccupation with the details of day-to-day operational activities - but rather to steer the Board toward establishing expectations that state “what” the Board wants to see rather than “how” management makes it happen!  This approach also recognizes and reinforces the appropriate distinction between Board (governance) and Administration (management) responsibilities.
The second requirement is intended to focus the Board on identifying that finite # of priority topics that justifies investment of its valuable governance time.  In other words, these are the expectations that management must meet regardless of all else.
Applying these two litmus tests results in Board comfort that it is attending to the right things, and management appreciation that it knows exactly what the Board is expecting (a sometimes novel notion).
The Board’s written expectations in this area are categorized under a variety of management/administrative topics (e.g.  Budget, Financial Conditions, Management of the Academic Program, Relationship with Students/Families, Relationship with the Academy Authorizer etc.).  Each specific expectation within a category is expressed in brief and concise terms.  Following are a few random examples from expectations documents created by Michigan Charter Boards: *
Category A. Interaction with Students and Families

   Developing and maintaining a positive and effective
   relationship with students and families will be a
   hallmark of the Academy.

   Therefore, with regard to student and family interactions, the
   Administrator shall not cause or allow circumstances or
   conditions that are unsafe, disrespectful, undignified, overly
   intrusive, unresponsive or which fail to properly respect
   privacy and confidentiality.

   In particular, the Administrator shall:

Expectation #4:  Ensure that Academy families are
     continuously and promptly informed of student
     progress/performance in academic and behavioral
     areas, and made aware of their obligations as
     parents/students of the  Acade


Category E. Communication and Support to the Board
   In recognition of the Board`s governance responsibility and
   the accountability of management, the Administrator shall
   provide support to the Board in a manner and means
  conducive to effective and efficient exercise of its duties.
   In particular, the Administrator shall:

   Expectation #4:  Provide all pre-identified/requested
   materials for Board meetings at least five (5) work
   days prior to all Board meetings.

Category I.  Relationship with the Academy Authorizer

   In special recognition of and appreciation for the Authorizer,
   the Administrator shall ensure a respectful and responsive
   relationship with the Academy Authorizer.
   In particular, the Administrator shall:

   Expectation #1: Submit all required/requested written
   reports on time and in complete and accurate fashion.

Please note these examples reflect “what” the Board expects, allowing (and requiring) management to worry about the “how”!
While it is important for the Board to set such expectations, it won’t mean much if the Board does not keep track of whether the expectations are actually being met.  This question is answered by management’s submission of brief “performance reports” that allow the Board to assess the extent to which its expectations are being met - thus closing the loop of good governance.
Performance reports are based on hard validation data (i.e. measurable indicators of performance), surveys of appropriate stakeholders (parents, faculty, etc.) or sometimes both.
In the next Board Bits, we will offer some examples of performance reports in the Management Boundaries area and the subsequent Board assessments of performance based on those reports.
* A Board can develop performance expectations from scratch or may arrange for MACSB assistance that features use of a model expectations template based on experiences with a number of Michigan Charter Boards.
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Governance, Management and You!
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Doing the Job!
Picking up where we left off...
Where it all Begins!