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Alternative title

Policy Governance and Student Success

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Department or Program Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Inclusive Teaching

Degree Name

Doctorate of Education


Education Leadership and Inclusive Teaching

First Advisor

Larsen, Donald

Second Advisor

Bruce, Tim (Professor)

Third Advisor

Darling, Robert (Superintendent)


Policy Governance is a leadership model developed in the 1970s by Dr. John Carver. It has been adopted by the boards and CEOs of numerous business organizations and is gaining popularity among public school superintendents and school boards. Policy Governance creates specific roles and responsibilities for the board and the superintendent, allowing them to work together toward targeted outcomes referred to as Ends. The Bellingham School District adopted Policy Governance in 2010 and has experienced qualitative and quantitative success using this governance structure. This study will provide literature research coupled with the experiences and testimonies of the current and past board members, faculty, and superintendents to connect Policy Governance to the success of students in the Bellingham community. In 2013 the Bellingham community passed a school bond providing the Bellingham superintendent with an opportunity to make strategic decisions regarding the use of those funds. Policy Governance provided the superintendent with a culture of trust with the school board that allowed him to act boldly on his convictions to invest in students who were far from equitable support in the school district. One investment was the building of Options High School, a traditional alternative school staged in portables, that was transformed into a $23 million school dedicated to each student and their personal learning needs. Options High School has experienced growth in student success since its transformation and continues to increase its influence throughout Whatcom County. This study suggests that the Policy Governance leadership model provided a culture of professional trust between the school board and superintendent and thus resulted in the increased success of students in the district.




Policy Governance, Bellingham School District, Bellingham Public Schools, Student Success, Student Achievement, School Board, Superintendent, John Carver


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Bellingham School District 501; School boards--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Academic achievement--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Public schools--Washington (State)--Bellingham; School superintendents--Washington (State)--Bellingham

Geographic Coverage

Bellingham (Wash.)




doctoral dissertations




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