Current policies as of July 1, 2020 are available to view or download online.
The Burlington Board of School Commissioners seeks to focus the District on significant improvement in student achievement outcomes and closure of achievement gaps, while creating strong connections between the Board and the Burlington community. To do this, the Board adopted a way of working, the policy governance model, on March 16, 2017. This model is being used in a growing number of school districts, cities, and non-profit organizations in Vermont and the nation. The Board’s work essentially becomes that of continuously evaluating the work of the superintendent in relation to the broad outcomes it has specified, and continuously engaging the community.
With the transition to policy governance, the Board established several kinds of policies which have been amended over time, including substantial changes in 2018 and 2019. Both current and former policies can be found below.
What is the work of the Board? Its responsibilities are specified by Vermont state statute and generally involve engaging the community and establishing a vision for the district; creating policies; hiring and evaluating the Superintendent; developing a budget for community approval and ensuring financial stability; monitoring the district’s evolving work towards the vision; and ensuring ethical work. The Board’s governance style, or way of working, guides its approach to the meetings and processes which carry out Board responsibilities.
- Ends policies: articulating a vision. The Board governs by focusing on what should be the results, or ends, of the district’s work (e.g., what students should know, understand, and be able to do by the time they graduate). The ends statement is both a commitment to the community about the goals for the district, as well as a direction to the superintendent about what results the Board expects to see. The particular methods for accomplishing those ends are left to the education professionals in the district.
- Governance Process policies: establishing Board process. The Board works intentionally, creating policies that describe how it operates, including a commitment to monitor its own performance of its duties. Governance process policies create clarity about the Board’s role in the district.
- Board/Superintendent Relationship policies: creating accountability. The Board creates policies about what work it delegates to the superintendent and how the superintendent is accountable for all the work of the district
- Executive limitations: setting limits on the superintendent. The Board establishes policies which limit what the superintendent cannot do in order to achieve the district’s expected results (the ends determined by the Board). Within this framework, the superintendent has power to choose any reasonable method to meet the desired ends.
- Policies required by the state or federal government: Both state and federal law mandate policies that address particular issues. The district complies with all pertinent state and federal laws and maintains all required policies.
What difference will this make?
The shift to policy governance will have four noticeable immediate impacts:
- The number of Board committees is sharply reduced, because the whole Board takes responsibility for monitoring the district’s work towards the specified ends.
- The number of community forums will increase, as the Board seeks to engage the community on topics that are pertinent in strategic planning and development. The community plays an important role in advising the board about its values and expectations.
- Board meetings will shift to focus on reviewing more detailed monitoring reports, revealing how the district is working toward ends. In addition, some of the monitoring reports will address how the Board itself evaluates its own work.
- Monitoring reports provide the board with data; the board then decides whether the district’s actions are in compliance with a reasonable interpretation of the policy. Evaluating monitoring reports keeps the Board’s focus on whether the district is achieving the specified ends. If a monitoring report does not convince the Board that the district is in compliance with a given policy then the board will direct the superintendent to revise and resubmit the report. Regular monitoring allows the Board to decide whether policies need revision and whether the general trends in the district are moving towards the ends.