Monday, May 7, 2012

Learn about compact governance in Boston and Spring Branch

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded a multi-year initiative to support the design and implementation of district-charter collaboration compacts. Figuring out how to create effective cross-sector governance structures has been challenging in some cities. Several cities have created a dedicated “compact manager” position to oversee and help push the compact agreements forward. Boston and Spring Branch have gone a step further to formalize governance structures through a Compact Steering Committee and sub-committees. The following table summarizes the committee structure and responsibilities in these two cities.

Examples of Governance Structures

Boston* Spring Branch
Compact Steering Committee 10 members total, 5 district and 5 charter 10 members total, 4 district and 3 from each charter partner
Leadership positions Led by the district’s deputy superintendent and the charter association’s chair Led by the district’s Executive Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning and a senior-level person at the two CMO partners
Responsibilities Steering Committee reps set compact priorities, provide compact recommendations to the school board, and coordinate funding for implementation. Click here for Boston’s Steering Committee charge. District reps provide compact updates and seek any additional approvals during the district’s weekly senior staff meetings. Charter reps ensure organizational approvals. Click here for Spring Branch's working group FAQ and background documents.
Meetings Steering Committee members meet monthly Steering Committee members meet weekly
Decision-making While the Steering Committee works towards consensus, timely decisions may be made with 7 of 10 members favorable vote While the Steering Committee works towards consensus, the district superintendent and CMO superintendents provide final decisions as needed
Compact
Sub-committees or Working Groups
Each Steering Committee member participates in one of three working groups. Additional charter compact signatories and district reps sit on sub-committees Each Steering Committee member participates in one of approximately six working groups. Additional charter and district reps sit on sub-committees
Project Manager Third-party consultant Charter partner’s Growth and External Affairs Manager

* The Catholic schools in Boston recently signed the Boston Compact. The Steering Committee will expand to four representatives from each sector, still working towards consensus, but requiring eight votes for timely decisions - and each sector must have at least two affirmative votes (so two of the three sectors can't make a decision to which the third is completely opposed). Working groups will have representation from all three sectors.>

For cities that are still forming decision-making bodies or who continue to make adjustments, below are some lessons from Boston and Spring Branch:
• Ensure there is a district and charter “champion” or lead for each working group and sub-committee or the work will not happen.
• Take the time to define and map out the subject and charge of the committee work (e.g., do not assume “operations” or “academics” means the same to district and charter leaders).
• Clarify who committee members represent – For example, senior district leaders may have the authority to speak for the district, while charter leaders may only speak for themselves or a group of charters but not all charters.
• The district representatives should make sure decisions align with superintendent and district priorities; ensure district representatives on working groups have the authority within the district to make decisions.
• Find opportunities for signatories to build personal relationships early in the process.
• Find ways to support both sectors’ work within individual working groups: In Boston, through the Teaching and Learning group, district leaders are helping charter leaders better serve special education students and charter leaders are helping district leaders with how to better support African-American males.
• Make sure principals are members of committees for strong school-level implementation.
• Try for consensus but have a standard process for moving forward without it if necessary.
• Identify a project manager: In Boston, third party consultant Rachel Weinstein was hired to manage compact implementation (this is her sole job; not wrapped up in other priorities of the district or charter organizations). She sees an advantage to her role as a neutral convener as it has helped build trust during the compact process. This role is partially funded through the Gates Foundation planning grant.
• Provide compact signatories and committee members a place to share internal documents (e.g., DropBox, Base Camp). Click here for instructions. In Spring Branch, compact leaders store committee planning documents, grant proposals, and contracts to provide easy updates across committees, preserve historical knowledge of the project, and ensure smooth staff transitions in the future.
Boston contact: Rachel Weinstein, Compact Consultant, rachel.weinstein@yahoo.com
Spring Branch contact: Mandelé C. Davis, Yes Prep, Mandele.Davis@yesprep.org