Sign up to be a Board Watch Observer today!
Board Watch is a grassroots effort involving volunteers who are trained to observe
Pittsburgh Public School Board meetings. The development of Board Watch, A+ Schools’ longest running program, began in 2007 as a response to public inquiries about the role of school board members and what good governance looks like. In partnership with the Local Government Academy, as well as a number of other local organizations, we formed an advisory committee, conducted research on good governance practices, held focus groups, and sought school board input in developing the program. As a result of this process, five good governance indicators were ultimately identified.
The five good governance indicators that the School Board is evaluated on are:
- Focus and Mission: The Board is focused on achieving its goals;
- Transparency: Board processes are accessible to the public;
- Conduct: Conflict is managed respectfully;
- Role Clarity: The Board provides policy leadership and oversight through engaging in planning and strategy conversations; and
- Competency: Board members are informed.
Our volunteers are informed citizens, serving as independent observers and evaluators of the School Board’s governance. Volunteers must be residents of the city of Pittsburgh or the Borough of Wilkinsburg. Volunteers are trained by A+ Schools which includes understanding how School Boards work and how to recognize good governance practices. Each Board Watch Observer attends school board meetings and completes and individual report after each meeting.
Follow the links below to access the Board Watch Volunteer Report Forms:
Board Watch Agenda Review and Legislative Session Meeting Volunteer Report Form.
Board Watch Education Committee Volunteer Report Form.
How Board Watch Works
- Volunteers attend School Board meetings (Education Committee, Agenda Review, or Legislative Session meetings) and fill out a report form. The report includes notes on the behaviors observed and a scaled survey indicating the level of observed good governance practices.
- A+ Schools records and analyzes the collective report information from volunteers.
- The responses from the scaled survey are translated into a grade for each of the five indicators of good governance, and an overall grade.
- Recommendations are formed based on the governance grade, as well as observations and feedback recorded by volunteers.
- When students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools receive their report cards, so does the School Board, along with recommendations for ways to improve governance.
How Board Watch Advances Equity and Excellence
- Promotes an open, transparent, accountable, and effective School Board;
- Encourages civil and professional School Board conduct;
- Informs the public about School Board performance;
- Educates the public about the importance of effective School Board governance and how to recognize it;
- Identifies areas where action or improvement is needed;
- Raises the public’s expectations for School Board governance; and
- Ensures monitoring of issues involving student achievement and equity.
Board Watch Successes
- Since the launch of Board Watch over 150 volunteers have been involved in evaluating the School Board’s governance;
- Over time, the School Board’s overall governance grade has risen;
- Board Watch has evolved over the years to accommodate the School Board’s request for more specific feedback;
- Partial or full implementation of recommendations made by A+ Schools by the School Board, some examples include:
- Improving public access by posting agendas online in advance of meetings;
- Providing the public the opportunity to comment on issues prior to a Board Vote by moving the Public Hearing to the same week as the Legislative Session;
- Enhancing their role as policy makers in the school district by holding policy workshops to review and recommend policy changes; and
- Improving transparency and accessibility by stationing a security guard at the main entrance of the building and improving signage to meeting rooms.
Board Watch Report Card
When Pittsburgh Public Schools students received their report cards, so does the School Board. Check out their most recent report card here. For an archive of past report cards and recommendations, click here.
Click here to learn more about Board Watch.