School governors play an important part in the democratic governance of education in a number of countries and forming a middle tier of accountability between state and schools. They carry out their role in a voluntary capacity. School governors are drawn from a range of backgrounds, including parents, school teachers, local politicians, business people, and professional groupings. They have a variety of responsibilities, depending on the country in which they are based. Their responsibilities can include, among others: developing a strategy for the school, monitoring the school budget, setting disciplinary strategy, setting school fees. Some members of the school board are elected, while others are co-opted or serve in an ex officio function—for example, head teachers. Political, social, and economic changes—based largely on shifts to the political economy of capitalism facilitated via organizations such as The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund since the late 1970s—have resulted in changes across education systems, leading to the globalization, privatization, and deregulation of public policy as a whole, and have affected the role and competencies of school governors. This is particularly the case in England and South Africa.
School boards are a fixture of America’s public education system. The vast majority of public school students obtain an education overseen by one of over 13,000 locally elected school boards. Yet scholars and advocates continue to debate the legitimacy, efficacy, and even need for school boards. Supporters argue that school boards are bastions of local control designed to represent citizen values. Critics dismiss school boards as under qualified, overly political, and generally not up to the task of improving student outcomes. Key areas of school board research include board zones of discretion, superintendent relations, the link between school board governance and outcomes, and role of special interest groups in board elections. All of these research areas relate to the larger question of whether school boards are the appropriate model for the oversight of public education.
Michael Wright and Rosemary Papa
The educational environment of the 21st century is complex and dynamic, placing demands on school leaderships that are both considerable and constant. Societal challenges such as school shootings, drugs, alcohol, and other problems are more frequently finding their way into U.S. classroom settings, which only further complicates the role of the superintendent. At times, superintendents may believe U.S. public schools are under attack, especially given prevailing political forces driving the marketization and privatization of schools. The elements connected to the sustainment and sustainability of superintendents, especially superintendent turnover, as a result of the following pressures are defined: school safety and security, social media, less parental involvement, and increased federal influence; continued divestment in public education and declining student enrollment; and pressure to perform by public school administrators. Superintendent departure research further considers: factors contributing to longevity and the cost of turnover; differences between superintendents and board members; reasons superintendents leave; stakeholder expectations and political pressures; increased accountability; and differences in expectations between the board and superintendent. Sustainable leadership is required between the superintendent and the board. Teamwork leads to greater effectiveness. Overall, the result of increased competition and dwindling levels of federal and state school funding very often means superintendents face complicated choices and difficult dilemmas—particularly relating to the allocation of scarce financial resources. For instance, school leaders nationwide are frequently forced to balance the tension existing between academic and non-academic programs, in a time when funding is woefully insufficient. Superintendents must often forgo hiring additional teachers, or purchasing required classroom support materials, and forgo school facility repairs, in order to enhance school safety and security. The increased accountability for school performance also weighs heavily on administrators, faculty, and staff, and especially the superintendent. Such pressures increase the level of superintendent turnover.