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The Governance Core

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

  • Davis Campbell - University of California (UC)-Davis, USA, DCAssociares
  • Michael Fullan - Michael Fullan Enterprises Inc., Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Canada

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

June 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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ISBN: 9781544344331