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Federal Way School Board shifts focus on policy approval, giving more power to administration and district staff

The Federal Way School Board is changing the way it does business — streamlining the system while putting more trust and responsibility into the hands of district staff.

The new format, known as Policy Governance, will restructure the board’s responsibilities to more of a broad picture outlook, and give the administration more power and say in day-to-day activities.

“I am exceptionally excited about this,” Board President Tony Moore said. “I am excited by the new level of trust. Our desire is to unshackle you.”

Rather than seek board approval for every policy change, including simple day-to-day issues, the new plan allows Superintendent Rob Neu to oversee and change those policies without the usual board approval.

The school district describes the board’s new role as more of a think tank for the district that will instead focus on the future and goals for education. The board will now give broad goals, known as the “ends,” and the district staff can determine how best to meet those ends.

The superintendent will have executive limitations — there are currently 16 — that he must work within. The board will also review the superintendent’s work and can step in if needed.

The school board will still approve costs for programs, what the program results should be and what can’t be done. However, the bulk of the decisions — “how” a program should run and even what programs should be brought in — will be left to the hands of the professionals.

Streamlined

There will be fewer policies coming to the board, and those that do will be reviewed annually. This review process wasn’t possible before. Due to the vast number of policies the board had to approve in the past model, the district estimates it would have taken at least four years to review all the current policies, let alone any new ones.

Rather than spend the time waiting for a policy to come to the board for numerous readings and board approval, which can take several weeks to months, policies can be implemented by the superintendent.

The board has been working actively on the change for the past 18 months. However, the idea goes back even further. School board member Ed Barney recalled talking about the idea of Policy Governance four years ago with former Superintendent Tom Murphy.

“It’s really come together,” Barney said.

There will be a second reading of the policy change, and the board will vote on the issue at its Sept. 28 meeting. Following approval, the board will then move to drafting its “ends.”

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