Opinion

Doctrine of policy governance in Federal Way schools | Pirkle Report

I want to talk about the latest initiative by the Federal Way School Board. It is called “policy governance” and is due to be approved at the Sept. 28 board meeting. So what is policy governance?

Before answering that question, let’s review the bidding, as we say in bridge. First, the schools failed and kids are not getting educated, as the state standardized test scores revealed. Then there was that attack on the Washington Assessment for Student Learning (WASL) as being a bad test. Remember that the WASL was created by education professionals. This is important because the words “education professionals” are used throughout the policy governance paperwork.

In that document, the education professionals are hailed as those who should be running the school district, not the school board who should only set goals — while at the same time, the standardized test from the education professionals is being criticized.

So now that we understand the history, let’s move on to policy governance. This initiative, drawn up by the school board, basically says that the school board should simply set the high-level goals of the district, via high-level board policy, and leave the details up to the administration. But the goals are very broad — something like, “every kid gets an education.”

This is simply the school board backing away from its responsibilities. Board members claim they are too busy to work at the lower policy level, such as improving the learning environment in schools, or transitioning from socialization to education, or using a drug-sniffing dog to root out drugs in lockers, or requiring teachers to wear professional dress to work. They don’t want to micro-manage the district.

This makes micro-management a greater sin than presiding over failing schools. This comes from a board that has done little in the five years I have been following them.

In the three minutes that the public gets to speak to the school board at board meetings, the board’s answer will be “that has been delegated to the superintendent. Not my problem.” We can expect that the superintendent will re-delegate things to the principals, who will re-delegate them to the teachers all under the name of local control of schools. Presumably, the public’s involvement in this model will be through the PTA. How is that for local control?

Now through the doctrine of policy governance, the school board has backed away from its responsibilities of fixing Federal Way’s schools and are leaving it up to what they call the education professionals. This sounds good until you realize that these education professionals got us into this mess in the first place.

We are transferring power from the school board, which has the power to fix this, to the bureaucrats who are not elected and spend a lot of time pushing paperwork, criticizing the WASL and asking for more money.

But the process does have a nice name — policy governance.

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