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Policy wins by SBP Fellows!

Policy Case Studies: "Championing Educational Excellence: Achievements of School Board Partners Fellows and Alumni in Policy and Equity Initiatives"

Over the past year, School Board Partners (SBP) collected board policy achievements from SBP fellows and alumni that showcase policy implementation in action. From Albuquerque Public Schools in New Mexico to Water Valley School District in Mississippi, each case study represents a unique journey of transformation within the realm of education policy. These leaders have not only pushed for structural changes in their districts but have also championed equity and student success — and we are proud to call each of them a member of the SBP community.

Their endeavors range from streamlining policy development processes to revising superintendent evaluation criteria, all aimed at fostering transparency and accountability while centering equity. The following case studies are only a sample of SBP members making real impact, you can stay tuned for more stories impact here in the blog throughout this year and read additional examples of board approved policies led by our current and past fellows here.

Howard County Public Schools (MD) and Superintendent Evaluation

Antonia Watts, SBP Cohort 4, Chair in 2023. The district includes 77 schools and serves over 57,000 students. 68% of the district’s enrollment are students of color and 15% are students experiencing poverty.

Antonia spearheaded dramatic improvements to her district’s superintendent evaluation process in 2022–2023. In the prior year (2020–21), the superintendent evaluation was a 45-page narrative completed laboriously by the Superintendent and staff. The document was primarily a report on various qualitative accomplishments, but it was not clearly rooted in the achievement of measurable goals for improved student learning, nor did it represent the input of board members themselves.

In contrast, the new process led by Antonia, with support from SBP’s policy coach, was summarized by a 1-page framework document, with 60% of the evaluation based on the achievement of four of the board’s highest priority SMART goals for student outcomes. This new process is significantly more efficient and ensures the superintendent is more accountable for student achievement as assessed by independent metrics and board members.

Additionally, Antonia is leading her board to memorialize this new framework as part of the governance policy as well as positioning the SMART goals to drive the focus of future budgets.

Albuquerque Public Schools (NM) and Revised Board Committee Policies

Danielle Gonzales, SBP Cohort 4, Policy Committee Chair in 2023. The district includes 176 schools and over 80,000 students. 80% of the district’s enrollment are students of color and 50% are students experiencing poverty.

Danielle has spearheaded numerous policy reforms with her tenacious leadership and by harnessing the support offered by SBP policy coaching. In April 2022, she gained board approval for a revamped board committee policy, establishing functional board subcommittees for the first time which included the creation of a policy committee which she then became Chair of in 2023. She then successfully garnered board approval for a more streamlined and transparent policy development approach and set the stage for additional policy reforms. Danielle continued leading the charge in 2023, successfully implementing a revised board code of conduct requiring members to recuse themselves from votes where there’s a conflict of interest arising from large campaign contributions, and a revised budget policy that substantially improved the rigor and transparency of the budget development process, bringing the district more in line with best practices.

Water Valley School District (MS) and Student Goals

Kathryn York, SBP Cohort 5. The district includes 2 schools and serves over 1,000 students. 50% of the district’s enrollment are students of color and 99% are students experiencing poverty.

Representing a small, rural, high poverty district in Mississippi, Kathryn deals with unique challenges as a school board member. Due to her leadership and based on the modeling provided by her SBP policy coach, Kathryn successfully gained board approval for a new set of annual goals for the 2023–24 school year. This was the first time the board had ever established SMART goals for the academic performance of students. Moreover, it was the first time the board and the district had explicit measurable goals to close the achievement gaps experienced by historically marginalized student groups. In addition to her academic leadership, Kathryn successfully won unanimous board approval for a policy prohibiting corporal punishment—another first for the district.

Mt. Diablo Unified School District (CA) and Racial Equity Training

Keisha Nzewi, SBP Cohort 4, President in 2023. The district includes 53 schools and serves nearly 30,000 students. 80% of the district’s enrollment are students of color and 32% are students experiencing poverty.

Keisha has been a powerful leader for racial equity in the district in many ways, including but not limited to her stewardship of the Board’s response to an incident where a student handed out cotton balls at school to mock Black History Month in February 2023. In follow up to this incident, Keisha worked with the SBP policy coach to draft a resolution on anti-racial bullying. The resolution included directives for mandatory racial equity training for all staff every year, increased effort and accountability for embedding culturally responsive curriculum in classrooms, and a charge to reconsider board policies that can be strengthened to ensure more accountability for perpetrators of racial bullying within the district.

The resolution won unanimous board approval in June 2023. As a result, all school district employees were required to watch a racial bias video as part of their beginning of the year training. Additionally, Keisha’s district has enacted higher accountability measures for administrators who do not appropriately manage racially charged incidents.