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The Governance Core

The Governance Core
School Boards, Superintendents, and Schools Working Together

Forewords by Frank Pugh and John Malloy, Co-Publication with Phi Delta Kappa Logo only when reprinted

April 2019 | 200 pages | Corwin

Working together for excellence for all children 

As our society faces daunting and evolving challenges, education might well be the social institution that offers the most hope and opportunity for change. Overloaded with multiple, diverse issues, however, where do educational leaders even begin? 

Davis Campbell and Michael Fullan believe efficacy must be achieved with a systems focus. The Governance Core provides strategies and tools for board members, superintendents and school leaders to unify and face the complex challenges of school governance together. Practical and authentic, the Governance Core is based upon:

  • A governance mindset
  • A shared moral imperative
  • A unified, cohesive governance system  
  • A commitment to system-wide coherence 
  • A focus on continuous improvement in the district 

Essential for local education governance – school boards in collaboration with district and school leadership – this guide will help you operate at the highest levels of effectiveness.

Foreword by Frank Pugh
Foreword by John Malloy
Introduction: Politics, Governance, and System Improvement
Unity of Purpose: Driven by a Shared Moral Imperative  
Politics, Governance, and System Improvement  
How This Book Is Structured  
Shift to Positive Drivers  
Concluding Comments  
Chapter 1. Moral Imperative and the Governance Core
The Nature of Governance  
A Fundamental Choice  
Five Major Themes of Good Governance  
The Governance Core  
Concluding Comments  
Chapter 2. Trustee Governance Mindset
Systems Thinking  
Strategic Focus  
Deep Learning  
Concluding Comments  
Chapter 3. Superintendent Governance Mindset
Typical Governance Styles  
Examples of Purposeful Superintendent Support for Governance  
What These Superintendents Have in Common  
Supporting a Trustee Governance Mindset  
Concluding Comments  
Chapter 4. Welcoming New Trustees
The First 100 Days: What the Board Should Do  
The First 100 Days: What New Trustees Should Do  
Concluding Comments  
Chapter 5. Governing With Coherence
Coherence Making  
Coherence in Perspective  
Distractions and Challenges to Coherence  
Concluding Comments  
Chapter 6. Governance Culture
Processes That Develop Governance Infrastructure  
Concluding Comments  
Chapter 7. The Governance Job: Systems Thinking and Strategic Action
Setting Strategic Direction  
Policy Direction and Approval  
Stewardship and Support  
Oversight and Accountability  
Community Leadership Throughout  
Concluding Comments  
Chapter 8. Governance Tools
Discussion Meetings  
Governance Handbooks  
Board Self-Evaluations  
Continuing Board Education  
Concluding Comments  
Chapter 9. Rising to the Occasion
All Rise  
Appendix I: Template for Creating Board Protocols
Appendix II: Three Comparisons of Effective Governance Principles
About the Authors

The Governance Core is a masterpiece that calls on governing board members to seize the moral high ground, establish a unity of purpose, and pursue governing excellence. The book is insightful, engaging, and filled with real-world examples that illuminate important principles needed for effective governing. The Governance Core is a must-read for new or veteran school board members.


Vernon Billy, CEO & Executive Director
California School Boards Association

Brilliant and utterly compelling! I have sat in boardrooms for 46 years governing education institutions, hospitals, and universities. It’s as if Davis Campbell and Michael Fullan were looking over my shoulder! The Governance Core captures the essence of effective governance in complex times. This book challenges us to focus on and achieve a higher moral purpose. Campbell and Fullan move beyond what governance is and explore how great leaders should govern.

Dr. Bill Hogarth, Consultant, and former Director of Education
York Region District School Board

Governance, school boards, and superintendents are on the front line of meeting the challenges facing education in the 21st century. The Governance Core by Davis Campbell and Michael Fullan captures not only the nature of the challenges but also the characteristics of highly successful school board trustees and superintendents working together. The Governance Core goes deeply into the heart of effective governance. Incorporate these ideas, and you will become much more effective as governance leaders—and your students, parents and educators will benefit immensely.

Frank Pugh, Past President
National School Boards Association

A treasure of a book, chock-full of guidance from the strategic to the pragmatic. I will refer to The Governance Core regularly as our board and principal work together in the service of the scholars and families in our school community. Whether you’re a district leader or a principal, on a district school board, charter board, or local school council, you will find insights and tools to deepen your understanding and improve your practice of effective governance. Our nation’s children deserve no less.

Susan Lucas, Co-Chair
Legacy Charter School, Chicago, IL

Davis Campbell and Michael Fullan do a masterful job of explaining how public school boards and superintendents working well together, with a shared moral imperative, can be a driving force for improvement in student learning as well as for society as a whole. This exquisite new book,


The Governance Core, beautifully explains why this is true and how to achieve it.


Leslie DeMersseman, Past President
California School Boards Association

Simultaneously visionary and pragmatic,


The Governance Core provides a comprehensive, action-oriented blueprint for designing an effective governance system focused squarely on what matters: student learning. Davis Campbell and Michael Fullan demonstrate how the right approach to governance can make the critical difference in achieving learning for all students. This new book is a powerful, persuasive must-read not only for superintendents and school board members but also for all of us in nonprofits and public agencies who share a commitment to students’ succeeding in school and beyond.


Glen Harvey, Chief Executive Officer

Good governance is a skill, a discipline, and a commitment. Davis Campbell and Michael Fullan reveal new understandings and important lessons about governing public school systems for healthier communities. They make the compelling case that effective governance in these uncertain times is an essential driver for a better democracy. A must-read for all new and veteran board members and superintendents.

Tony Smith, Former State Superintendent of Education
Illinois State Board of Education

Davis Campbell and Michael Fullan have provided great insights on the governance core in this inspiring book. I recommend that trustees and superintendents read this book together—and act on the key messages.

John Malloy, Director of Education
Toronto District School Board

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Davis W. Campbell

Davis Campbell is the former Executive Director of the California School Boards Association and is Chair of the University of California, Davis, School of Education, Board of Advisors and a Senior Fellow. He also serves as a Trustee on the Stuart Foundation Board of Trustees.Campbell has a deep and broad background in public education. He served for 12 years in the California Department of Education, serving six of those years as Deputy State Superintendent of Public Instruction in charge of all education programs. In 1988, he was appointed Executive Director of the California School Boards Association, serving in that capacity until his... More About Author

Michael Fullan

Michael Fullan, OC, is the former Dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto. He is co-leader of the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning global initiative. Recognized as a worldwide authority on educational reform, he advises policymakers and local leaders in helping to achieve the moral purpose of all children learning. Michael Fullan received the Order of Canada in December 2012. He holds honorary doctorates from several universities around the world. Fullan is a prolific, award-winning author whose books have been published in many languages. His book Leading in a Culture of... More About Author

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ISBN: 9781544344331