Shared Governance is Salt Lake City School District’s process for participatory decision-making. Although it is the exclusive right of the Board of Education to determine the goals and direction of the district, in 1974, the Salt Lake Board of Education agreed to delegate the right to local sites to make some decisions through the use of the Shared Governance process. Shared Governance is based on the philosophy that education is a responsibility of all employees and the community, and that when people work together to make decisions, many advantages accrue.
Shared Governance is deeply embedded in the district’s culture. Under Shared Governance, district personnel and, at the school level, members of the community join to make decisions which affect the welfare of students and education. Shared Governance allows for a broad range of decisions, but all decisions must fit within the law, Board of Education policies, budgets, and professional ethics requirements.
Shared Governance creates a sense of ownership and can empower participants to achieve great things. When people believe that what they think, say, and do make a difference, they feel a sense of pride in what they accomplish. Participation in decisions helps improve employee performance and success.
Six Basic Principles
Six basic principles are common to all: delegation, openness, trust and equity, decision-making, review and adjudication, accountability, and dialogue and communication. Delegation means that the Salt Lake City Board of Education delegates some decisions to be made by stakeholders at school positive relationships. Participants should feel empowered to speak freely without fear of consequences.
When making decisions using Shared Governance, groups should strive to make decisions by reaching consensus. This does not mean that 100 percent of the group is in perfect agreement. It means that all members agree to support the best decision that can be made at the time. However, sometimes consensus cannot be reached, yet a decision must be made. In these rare instances, groups may request assistance from the district’s chief executive officer, the Superintendent.
Accountability means that after a decision is made all stakeholders are expected to support that decision and to help make its implementation successful. With regular dialogue and communication, good decisions can be reached and openness and trust will flourish among group members.
The practice of Shared Governance does not look the same in every context, and many different types of decisions are made at schools and by departments every day. In some cases – especially in matters of law, policy, regulation, or safety – decisions may be made with limited participation. In these cases, the decision-maker should then communicate and explain the decision and rationale to stakeholders. In other contexts, decision-makers may be able to involve individuals or groups in the decision-making process. Others may be consulted with, listened to, asked for their reactions, or given a chance to be heard before a decision is made or even help make the final decision.
Participatory decision-making exists only in an atmosphere where members can speak their minds without fear of coercion, ridicule, or retribution and where all points of view are equally considered. That is what Shared Governance is all about. The Salt Lake City Board of Education recognizes that a school district is a complex organization and believes that everyone’s ideas are important.