Book Review

Getting Started with Policy Governance

Bringing Purpose, Integrity and Efficiency to Your Board

by Caroline Oliver, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, Calif., 2009, 225 pp. with index, $40 softcover

The board-superintendent relationship is vitally important to the success of the whole school system. In Getting Started with Policy Governance: Bringing Purpose, Integrity and Efficiency to Your Board, Caroline Oliver, founder of the International Policy Governance Association, demonstrates how the John Carver Policy Governance model can be evaluated, implemented and used to create a high-performing organization.

Getting Started



Oliver uses various public and not-for-profit examples of the CEO-board interface to provide a framework for establishing a sustainable transition to a balanced, effective working relationship among a board, its clients and staff.

The author emphasizes the need for boards to clearly identify the organization’s owners and then use their goals as the basis for governance decisions. Wise boards will develop the organization’s ends by asking three essential governance questions: What benefits should an organization produce? For whom? With what cost efficiency?”

Boards that address these organizational ends-related questions provide the basis for the chief executive officer to exercise considerable discretion about the means to achieve the ends. A clear system of monitoring accountability is capable of being deployed in ways that strengthen the governance relationship.

Superintendents and boards will benefit from the board meeting-related operating questions posed and addressed by this governance structure. A rich set of examples and end-of-chapter reference tools will spare the reader hours of research and investigation.

Reviewed by Brian L. Benzel, vice president for finance and administration, Whitworth University, Spokane, Wash.