MCC board talks policy governance

By Emilee Nielsen • Last Updated 11:55 am on Thursday, March 16, 2017

From left, Trustee Patricia Hinrichs, Montcalm Community College President Bob Ferrentino and Debra Alexander, dean of student and enrollment services, listen to a discussion about policy governance during Tuesday afternoon’s MCC Board retreat.

SIDNEY — The Montcalm Community College (MCC) Board of Trustees had a lesson in policy governance during its retreat meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The board heard a presentation via video conference from Richard Stringham, a senior consultant with The Governance Coach. The presentation detailed different elements of policy governance, a paradigm created by Dr. John Carver.

The purpose of policy governance, according to a description of the model, is to empower boards of directors to fulfill their obligation of accountability for the organizations they govern.

“When we refer to this term policy governance, we are talking about a system of governance,” Stringham said. “Based on what (Carver) really pushes toward is accountability back to ownership.”

Stringham talked to the board for about 90 minutes about different components of policy governance, as well as the policies the board itself abides by.

The purpose of policy, Stringham said, is to have a consistent decision over time, so if a board has made similar decisions in the past, policy allows them to be consistent.

He likened the model with a set of nested mixing bowls: A board defines policies on a broader level, the largest mixing bowl, and continues to make definitions that get more specific, which would be symbolized with the smaller bowls.

Montcalm Community College Board Secretary Carol Deuling-Ravell talks to Chairwoman Karen Carbonelli during Tuesday afternoon’s retreat meeting.

With broad policies, according to the model, there are different levels of reasonable interpretation to allow for differing opinions between the head of an organization andin the board. As policies become more specific and detailed, the scope for reasonable interpretation begins to shrink.

Policy governance, Stringham said, is a model which calls for accountability from the head of an organization to its board and the board to its stakeholders or shareholders.

He said MCC Board could use some work on ends policies, which are defined within the model as what the policy would seek to accomplish in effecting a change.

“Ends policies are not something that’s intuitive in terms of organizations sitting down to do that,” Stringham said. “Right now, you don’t have statements external to the organization in terms of results to be achieved.”

Board Chairwoman Karen Carbonelli said the presentation was a good experience and she has been concerned about the ends policies as well.

“I do think that in the past we have monitored and gone through the policies. I think that has kept everybody familiar with how we’re supposed to operate,” she said. “I do think we need to strengthen those ends policies.”

MCC President Bob Ferrentino believes he could give a formal, written report in order to increase his accountability to the board.

Vice President for Student and Academic Affairs Rob Spohr believes the strategic plan for the college speaks to goals and ends policies in a way which can be taken into account.

Also during Tuesday’s retreat, board members discussed enrollment, tuition and fees, the five-year financial forecast and the strategic plan.

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