“Board development is an aspect of capacity building that focuses on enhancing the ability of board members to function as a group. A useful approach to building this capacity is through board self-evaluation, which can serve a number of purposes, including developing a shared understanding of effective governance, enhancing the board’s strategic capacity, improving decision-making processes and identifying governance information needs. Board evaluations generally focus on core areas of the board’s mandate. They can be conducted by the board itself or through engagement of qualified consultants. Ideally, either approach will result in a governance improvement plan which is executed by the board.”
Governance is the work of the board of trustees and involves the purposeful exercise of collective leadership. Good governance doesn’t just happen. It requires the elected board to take responsibility for the effectiveness of its governance practices. Effective Boards of Trustees will have a governance review policy which includes processes that can contribute to the continuous improvement of board governance.
The Education Act requires the elected board to develop a multi-year plan strategic plan, and develop and maintain policies and organizational structures which:
An important aspect of the responsibility of the board of trustees is to annually review the board’s multi-year strategic plan. This requirement also provides an opportunity for the elected board to look at its governance policies and actions and how successful it is in focusing on what matters most to student achievement and good governance.
Self-assessment is a valuable process that results in a range of benefits. In addition to improving communication among board members and building an understanding of the effectiveness of the directions taken by the elected board, the key outcome is greater certainty around what works for the benefit of students.
The process that boards of trustees undertake to review their performance will vary from board to board. Collection of the information to inform the review can occur in a number of ways including:
Elected boards should consider the development of a policy which is parallel to the policy for the performance review of the director of education. The following principles form the basis for the development of a board policy:
The basis for the elected board’s self-assessment includes its job description (see Module 3 – Roles and Responsibilities) and reflects the following leading governance practices:
Self-assessment includes examining how well the board works together and how effective the group dynamics are. Day to day examples of this include:
Expert Facilitator/Consultant assistance in developing and implementing policies in these areas are available from the Centre for Governance Excellence at OESC-CSEO: www.oesc-cseo.org
The Centre for Governance Excellence also maintains a portfolio of self-assessment tools that can be considered by boards.
An expert Facilitator will work with a board to complete a comprehensive governance review (Audit) of all or selected board governance functions.
Chartered Public Accountants of Canada has published a useful resource: “20 Questions Directors (Trustees) of Not-For-Profit Organizations Should Ask about Board Recruitment, Development and Assessment”. https://www.cpacanada.ca/en/business-and-accounting-resources/strategy-risk-and-governance/not-for-profit-governance/publications/20-questions-on-recruiting-a-not-for-profit-board
OESC-CSEO has developed a Pre-Assessment Survey on Governance, (www.oesc-cseo.org) specifically designed for elected school boards.