What is Modern Governance for Public Education?

Dottie Schindlinger
5 min read

Governance has struggled to keep pace with today's public education landscape. The world we live in is switched on, digital and decentralized. Cyberattacks can originate from anywhere in the world. Social media amplifies the voice of every citizen and staff member. In a world where nanoseconds count, old governance practices aren't just out of date; they're exposing today's school districts to the kinds of risks that can lead to crises. And there's no shortage of examples these days...

Cyber breaches. Poor tone at the top. Employee misbehavior gone viral. These are the things that governance shortfalls are made of. And the next question is always the same:Where was the board and administration team while all this was happening?

Simply put, good governance is a strategic advantage in today's complex, digital world. And the first step towards modernizing governance frameworks requires clear identification of the problem.

Acknowledging the Governance Deficit

Globalization, digitization, connectivity, access'many of these change factors have been welcomed advancements, yet the rate at which they've come into play has left today's organizations with little time to adapt. As a result, school districts have been exposed to a dangerous governance deficit, which can take many forms:

  • Leaders don't have the right information at the right time to ask the right questions.
  • The board lacks visibility into the district's current and future needs.
  • Organizational data and communication systems are disparate and unsecure, hindering collaboration and exposing school districts to potential cyber risk.

Core to today's governance deficits are a lack of visibility, security and speed. When school districts address these deficiencies, they empower effective decision-making, enhance transparency, and gain access to the kinds of insights that drive growth and longevity in today's digital age.

Defining Modern Governance

Modern governance: (n.) the practice of empowering leaders in public education with technology, insights, and processes to fuel good governance that school districts require to thrive in today's fast-paced digital age.

In an effort to bridge the current governance deficits, BoardDocs is thrilled to be a part of the Diligent team in launching a new category: modern governance. Enabling this new category, BoardDocs' offerings put the necessary tools and intelligence at the fingertips of today's board members and leadership teams.

Modern governance equips school boards with the information they need to ask questions and address red flags. It protects a district's most important data. It enables greater transparency and liberates the flow of information to the public. It transforms the board into an engaged partner of the community and an early-warning radar system for the future. Most importantly, modern governance is a strategic advantage in a time of enhanced risk and disruption.

What does a modern governance product solution look like?

  • Board and civic engagement ' tools that connect board members to one another and the community, empowering them to collaborate and providing oversight of spending, staffing and budgets, as well as insight from third parties.
  • Access meets security ' school districts can secure information, but also make needed information readily available to the right people at the right time.
  • Integrated applications enable coherent policy ' with a cohesive set of applications, board leaders can access the information they need to carry out sound policy.

Motivating this modern governance category launch is our genuine belief that good governance matters and impacts us all. Every student, family member, staff member and citizen is affected by the way school boards govern, good or bad. BoardDocs is proud to be a part of the Diligent family of brands in bringing these modern governance solutions to life and together serving more organizations across the world than any other board software provider. Given Diligent's customer base'more than 650,000 users in 90+ countries around the world'we recognize our impact in the governance equation. Not only are we equipping today's boards with the tools they need to thrive, but with the tools they need to do the right thing.

4 Steps Boards Can Take Towards Modern Governance

Through our interactions with public governing bodies, we've learned a few things: Good governance is dynamic'it can look a little different from one organization to the next. Yet, there are a few modern governance principles that hold constant.

1. Re-examine the governance structure you've inherited.

When you join a school board, you're inheriting a governance structure (i.e., an existing set of rules, roles and processes that govern the board and the broader district). New board members must get up to speed quickly on necessary processes and protocol, but they can also offer a fresh perspective on how things could be done better. Board members should not be afraid to re-examine or challenge the current processes that are in place and ask, 'Can we be doing this a better way?' Keeping a close eye on the effectiveness of your current governance structure will allow your school board to more precisely pinpoint areas of improvement.

2. Focus on board composition and development.

School districts that support the principles of modern governance align board skills with long-term strategy; they see diversity of all kinds as an advantage, not a requirement. However, executing on these principles is where many boards fall short. Modern boards must work to identify gaps, understand the skills and perspectives required to answer the needs of the district, and recognize any potential conflicts of interest.

3. Improve visibility around key risks and opportunities.

For today's school districts, it's not enough to simply identify key organizational risks'boards must then design the dashboards, reporting frameworks, and info-gathering networks that allow them to monitor these risks and identify red flags. A modern governance product solution ensures that school boards remain aligned with their goals with strategic progress tracking, that they establish sound policy, and that they stay in compliance with open meeting laws and regulations.

4. Avoid easy cyber mistakes.

Board members are notoriously guilty of using text messaging or personal email to share sensitive information and materials. For public boards, discussing board business outside of scheduled meetings not only violates open meeting laws, but puts district information at risk. School districts that practice modern governance do not make these mistakes; they centralize board and management collaboration using role-based authorizations, while also ensuring that the public has easy access to required information.

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Dottie Schindlinger

Dottie Schindlinger is Executive Director of the Diligent Institute, the governance think tank and research arm of Diligent Corporation. In her role, Dottie promotes the intersection of governance and technology as a recognized expert in the field.' She co-authored Governance in the Digital Age: A Guide for the Modern Corporate Board Director, '2019, John Wiley & Sons Publishers, and is creator and co-host of The Corporate Director Podcast, a fortnightly show featuring corporate directors sharing their stories about modern governance.''

Dottie was a founding team member of BoardEffect, a board management software platform launched in 2007 focused on serving the needs of healthcare, higher education & nonprofit boards. Prior to BoardEffect, she spent 15 years working in a variety of governance roles, including as a board support professional, consultant, trainer, board member, and senior executive. 'Dottie serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of the Alice Paul Institute, and is a Fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar.' She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.