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Governance Practices for a Safe Learning Environment

By Phil Gore, PhD, TASB Leadership Team Services and Melanie Moss, TASB Risk Management Services

Board members at SLI 2018What does eXceptional Governance suggest for school safety and security? Principles of good governance are relevant and applicable when it comes to the school board’s role in oversight for safe, secure, and healthy learning and working environments. The principles of good governance include high expectations; a clear, collaboratively developed vision for success; measureable indicators of success; and a relentless commitment to the vision. So where do safety and security fit?

By statute, every district has to have an all-hazard emergency operations plan in place and adopted by the board. This plan should be reviewed annually and revised at least every three years. It’s the board’s responsibility to empower campuses to remain safe havens for education by focusing on adopting and enforcing the necessary plans. They must maintain high expectations for the development of safety and emergency management programs that address the unique needs of the district, its students, and all staff. When these plans and logistics are properly addressed by the board, students and teachers are able to focus on what really matters—student learning.

School boards need to be informed of the issues, needs, and best practices for safety and security. Good governance requires collaboration with the superintendent and administrative team. Board members need to work closely with administrators during all phases of the emergency management process, including preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery. Districts should ensure emergency plans and strategies are up to date, and that all staff, including administrators and the board, are trained on the plan and support drills and have an understanding of what that training will look like for all students and staff.

Trustees need to listen carefully to stakeholders’ questions and concerns when planning safety and security measures. Additionally, board members must be proactive in supporting community efforts to prepare for, respond to, and recover from incidents and emergencies that may impact their district directly or indirectly. They may also facilitate a community conversation, either in large or small groups, to get feedback and suggestions for supporting and improving school safety and security.

Additionally, the board must ensure the district is working in collaboration with groups beyond their community, including local, regional, and state emergency response agencies so those relationships are well established in case of an emergency.

When trustees look at safety and security measures through the eXceptional Governance lens, they are able to take the necessary steps to help create a learning atmosphere where students feel protected and at ease, with a primary focus of learning and growing.

This bulletin, produced by TASB Leadership Team Services, examines research and shares philosophies to inform and promote exceptional governance within school boards across Texas.