In mid-October 2007, the Board of the Teton County
School District #1 in Jackson, Wyoming,
unanimously approved a number of recommendations of the Board’s High-Impact
Governing Task Force aimed at strengthening the Board’s governing
capacity. Among the more important
actions the Board took were adoption of a new standing committee structure and
of guidelines to govern the new committees’ operations. The new Board committees are now firmly
established and functioning as very effective “governing engines.” I recently talked with Teton’s
superintendent, Pam Shea, about the work of the High-Impact Governing Task
Pam, what are the chief factors that account for the High-Impact Governing Task
Force’s success as a board development tool?
Pam: Above all else, the composition of the Task
Force – headed by the Board President and including two other Board members and
myself – ensured that three key Board members became strong owners of, and
passionate advocates for, the recommendations in the Action Report. Our process was the polar opposite of just
hiring an outside consultant to identify issues, come up with recommendations,
and try to sell them to the Board. Also,
the Task Force followed a meticulously designed, very logical and transparent
process, including formally adopted “design assumptions” to guide our work and
detailed analysis of governance issues.
We definitely didn’t jump to conclusions or fall victim to preconceived
notions of what needed to be done on the governance front. And we retained a consultant with 25 years of
experience in working with nonprofit and public boards of all kinds to
facilitate Task Force deliberations and to draft the various sections of the
Action Report for Task Force review.
How did the Task Force handle presentation of its Action Report to the Board?
Pam: In the first place, Doug, we set aside
three hours for the Task Force to present its recommendations at a special
Board work session since we wanted plenty of time for questions and
discussion. And rather than just
thumbing through the lengthy Action Report, Task Force members all participated
in making a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted the recommended actions,
with our consultant present as a resource but NOT a formal presenter. So we set up a peer-to-peer situation. By the way, the Task Force presenters met for
a “dress rehearsal” the night before the special Board session, running through
the slides and asking each other questions.
In light of the importance of the recommendations in terms of our
Board’s governing capacity, we weren’t about to “wing it” as presenters, and
I’m sure that the unanimous vote on each recommended action had a lot to do
with the quality of our presentation.