What TASB's Effective Board Practices: An Inventory for School Boards Says about Vision

The following excerpt is from the Effective Board Practices: An Inventory for School Boards, Planning and Governance section. The numbers in the subheads refer to items in the Inventory checklist.

Planning and governance

The primary way a school board governs a district is by setting direction for the district—articulating the culture it wants the district to embody, establishing the outcomes the board would like the district to achieve, and expressing and supporting the aspirations of the community for the future of its children. The most efficient vehicles for doing this are a clearly articulated vision and both annual and long-term goals. The goals give staff clear direction in achieving the district vision. Without a well-formed vision and goals there can be a lack of a clear sense of purpose and direction in the district. A clear district vision and goals coordinate the decisions and focus of the district staff.

It is important that the board and superintendent ensure that a vision and goals are in place for the district and that they use them to guide their own work and the decisions they make. In doing so, the board-superintendent team expresses its commitment to the vision and goals and ensures that they are used to coordinate the efforts within the district.

Vision

A vision statement outlines an ideal picture of what is desired for the district in the long term. It should be attainable and cause the district to reach beyond where it is currently. A well-formed vision statement is written and usually speaks to what is desired for the students, their learning environment, and the community.

A good vision statement should energize the board-superintendent team and the district staff. It should go beyond platitudes or generic statements and express the real aspirations of the community for the future of its children. Because the vision statement is really a statement of community aspirations, the board-superintendent team, which has been entrusted by the community to articulate and follow through on these aspirations, may want to solicit input from the staff and community when the vision is being developed. This will make the vision broader and will increase the support by the community and staff for its long-term attainment.

Even though a good vision statement may be useful for many years, it should be reviewed periodically and updated as needed. A good rule of thumb is to review the vision statement at least every five years. Some districts choose to review their vision statement more frequently. 

Achieving the vision and goals

The district’s vision and goals should be consistently on the board’s mind. The board should take no action on major items without first formally questioning what, if any, effect it will have on the district moving forward toward accomplishing its goals.

One of the ways the board can monitor the advancement of district goals is by focusing the superintendent’s evaluation process on the attainment of the district goals. To do this the board will want to develop superintendent performance goals. These performance goals clearly articulate what the board wants to see the superintendent focusing his or her time on to achieve the district goals. If the board is clear in its expectations, it is more likely that the superintendent will devote significant time in ensuring the district’s priorities are achieved.

As part of the process of developing superintendent performance goals, the board should request scheduled periodic reports from the superintendent. These reports are designed to give the board information on what the superintendent and staff are doing to ensure progress is being made on specific district goals. Another of the things the board must do to ensure the successful completion of district goals is to adopt a budget that adequately funds the district’s priorities. The board needs to ask questions about the adequacy of funding for district goals of the superintendent when he or she presents the budget. If the goals are adequately funded, the likelihood of their being achieved is far greater than if they are underfunded.

Below you will find items from Effective Board Practices: An Inventory for School Boards and their associated criteria about vision. You can review the entire Inventory and print out copies if you’d like. You can also order printed copies at the TASB Book Store.

1.1 The vision statement meets the criteria for a well-developed vision statement listed in the supporting materials.

You can check “Yes” for the above item if you check “Yes” to all the criteria below:

    1. Your vision statement is written. 
    2. It lists or describes desired qualities for at least each of the following: students of the district, the community, and the schools in the district.
    3. Staff and community input was solicited in some fashion and was considered.
    4. All current members of the board and the superintendent have agreed, in a formal adoption or readoption by the board, to be guided by the vision. 

1.2 The board reviews and readopts the vision through formal board action.

You can check “Yes” for the above item if you check “Yes” to all the criteria below:

    1. The board has formally adopted or readopted its vision statement within the last five years.
    2. The board’s annual calendar of activities or another written document clearly specifies when the vision statement will next be considered for review.

1.3 The vision is disseminated througout the district.

You can check “Yes” for the above item if you check “Yes” to all the criteria below:

  1. The vision statement is clearly posted in the board meeting room or copies are available at each meeting.
  2. The vision statement is available on all campuses and all staff members have been informed about it.