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Alameda's Adopted Board Standards

Source: The California School Boards Association (CSBA)


Public oversight of local government is the foundation of American democracy. Nowhere is this more evident than in our public schools, where local boards of education are entrusted by their diverse communities to uphold the Constitution, protect the public interest in schools and ensure that a high quality education is provided to each student. To maximize the public’s confidence in local government, our local boards must govern responsibly and effectively.

The California School Boards Association (CSBA), representing nearly 1,000 local school districts and county boards of education, recognizes there are certain fundamental principles involved in governing responsibly and effectively. These principles — or Professional Governance Standards — reflect consensus among hundreds of board members, superintendents and other educational leaders throughout the state.

These Professional Governance Standards describe the three components vital to effective school governance:

1) the attributes of an effective individual trustee,
2) the attributes of an effective governing board, and
3) the specific jobs the board performs in its governance role.

The intent of these standards is to enhance the public’s understanding about the critical responsibilities of local boards and to support boards in their efforts to govern effectively. 

The Individual Trustee

The Board                 

The Board’s Jobs

In California’s public education system, a trustee is a person elected or appointed to serve on a school district or county board of education. Individual trustees bring unique skills, values and beliefs to their board. In order to govern effectively, individual trustees must work with each other and the superintendent to ensure that a high quality education is provided to each student.

School districts and county offices of education are governed by boards, not by individual trustees. While understanding their separate roles, the board and superintendent work together as a “governance team.” This team assumes collective responsibility for building unity and creating a positive organizational culture in order to govern effectively.

The primary responsibilities of the board are to set a direction for the district, provide a structure by establishing policies, ensure accountability and provide community leadership on behalf of the district and public education. To fulfill these responsibilities, there are a number of specific jobs that effective boards must carry out.

To be effective, an individual trustee:


To operate effectively, the board must have a unity of purpose and:


Effective boards:

  • Keeps learning and achievement for all students as the primary focus.

  • Values, supports and advocates for public education.

  • Recognizes and respects differences of perspective and style on the board and among staff, students, parents and the community.

  • Acts with dignity, and understands the implications of demeanor and behavior.

  • Keeps confidential matters confidential.

  • Participates in professional development and commits the time and energy necessary to be an informed and effective leader.

  • Understands the distinctions between board and staff roles, and refrains from performing management functions that are the responsibility of the superintendent and staff.

  • Understands that authority rests with the board as a whole and not with individuals.


  • Keep the district focused on learning and achievement for all students.

  • Communicate a common vision.

  • Operate openly, with trust and integrity.

  • Govern in a dignified and professional manner, treating everyone with civility and respect.

  • Govern within board-adopted policies and procedures.

  • Take collective responsibility for the board’s performance.

  • Periodically evaluate its own effectiveness.

  • Ensure opportunities for the diverse range of views in the community to inform board deliberations.



  • Involve the community, parents, students and staff in developing a common vision for the district focused on learning and achievement and responsive to the needs of all students.

  • Adopt, evaluate and update policies consistent with the law and the district’s vision and goals.

  • Maintain accountability for student learning by adopting the district curriculum and monitoring student progress.

  • Hire and support the superintendent so that the vision, goals and policies of the district can be implemented.

  • Conduct regular and timely evaluations of the superintendent based on the vision, goals and performance of the district, and ensure that the superintendent holds district personnel accountable.

  • Adopt a fiscally responsible budget based on the district’s vision and goals, and regularly monitor the fiscal health of the district.

  • Ensure that a safe and appropriate educational environment is provided to all students.

  • Establish a framework for the district’s collective bargaining process and adopt responsible agreements.

  • Provide community leadership on educational issues and advocate on behalf of students and public education at the local, state and federal levels.

© 2004 California School Boards Association. All rights reserved.

Pennsylvania School Board Associations Standards for Effective School Governance

Iowa School Board Associations Standards for Effective School Governance

In Reno, Nevada the Washoe Couny School District began working on an Action Plan for Building of Trusteees Governing Capacity developed in partnership of consultant Doug Eadie In Janaury, 2006, the school board adopted a new Governing Mission. To support this new mission, the school board created new Standing Committees and adopted rules for participation on the Standing Committees.

S.D. school trustees regain right to criticize chief

By Maureen Magee, SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, October 14, 2008

SAN DIEGO – When San Diego school trustees agreed to a policy that prohibits them from criticizing the superintendent, they were lambasted for compromising their duty to speak frankly to constituents who elected them. The school board may never live down that governance policy. But on Tuesday, they decided to change it.

At the suggestion of trustee Shelia Jackson, board members removed two portions of the controversial conduct code – one that bans them from publicly criticizing the Superintendent Terry Grier and one that prohibits them from undermining board decisions when talking to the press or public. “I'm glad my peers agree with me on this,” said Jackson, who was the only trustee to vote against the original policy on Sept. 9.

The board adopted the strict governance policy last month following a series of public workshops designed to improve relations on a board that is known for micromanaging the affairs of the San Diego Unified School District.

But some of the rules in that initial policy were “not only unenforceable but, if truth be told, tend to diminish and degrade the dignity and integrity of this elected body and deprive the community of a public airing of issues by our elected representatives,” said Norma Damashek, co-president of the League of Women Voters of San Diego.

Trustee John de Beck said the intent was never to stamp out dissent on the board, rather it was to impose “some kind of civility,” something the board has been accused of lacking in the past.

Grier said he can take the criticism that goes with his job heading the state's second-largest public school system. In fact, he said he had nothing to do with writing the policy.

The conduct code still addresses behavior during public forums and professional conduct.

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Last modified: April 14, 2004

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