Pan-Canadian School Board Governance Study
In 2011, Drs. Bruce Sheppard and Gerald Galway, Memorial University, assembled a research team to undertake a national study of school board governance. This study was focused on improving the collective understanding of the attributes of effective school boards across Canada and, in the current context of increasing accountability, furthering our understanding of the relationships between school boards and provincial governments. Towards these purposes, they examined three overarching questions:
- What are the attributes of effective school boards in Canada? Do these attributes vary by province? How can these attributes be replicated in jurisdictions across the country?
- What is the nature of educational governance in school boards in Canada? Who are the principal actors and what are their governance roles? Does the governance model vary by province?
- What are the factors and influences that drive policy decision-making in Canadian school boards?
Purpose of the Study
This study was a follow-up to previous work (Sheppard, Brown & Dibbon, 2009) that revealed that school boards matter a great deal to the existence of successful public education systems, but only effective school boards have a positive impact on schools and student learning. Bringing about meaningful, sustainable improvement of teaching and learning across our nation requires that we learn more about the attributes and priorities of school boards and their relationships with the governments that create and fund them. It is toward that purpose that this research was directed.
Within this context, Professsor Galway’s (2009) work on policy and decision-making in education departments was extended by examining policy making at the school board level. Across Canada there have been numerous recent examples of incidents where the political and ideological interests of provincial governments have run counter to the perceived mandates of school boards and the governance roles of elected trustees. In several notable cases governments have intervened to influence or overturn school board decisions. In our study we wish to explore the relationship between school boards and government and the factors that impact their respective policy decisions. We believe this work has the potential to facilitate effective working relationships between ministries of education and school districts towards a sustained focus on teaching and learning.
We believe the results of this work can significanly help inform planning and decision making within school boards and provincial school board associations in each of the provinces.
Dr. Bruce Sheppard, Memorial University
Dr. Gerald Galway, Memorial University
Dr. Jean Brown, Memorial University
Dr. John Wiens, University of Manitoba
School Board Trustees and Commissioners
We thank the School Board Trustees and Commissioners who volunteered to assist with Dr.s Sheppard and Galway to assist with this research. Your contibution is certainly what made this research a success and will allow many boards to gain from your experience.