Drafting a governance handbook and self-evaluation
Lake Tahoe USD outlines process for LEAs

The four steps that Lake Tahoe Unified School District has utilized to create a governance handbook were covered during the session “Governance Handbook and Board Self-Evaluation” at CSBA’s 2023 Annual Education Conference and Trade Show in December.

The majority of local educational agency boards have a governance handbook, but all too often they are neglected — left to collect dust without regular review or updates. In Lake Tahoe USD, however, leadership has taken strategic steps to draft a handbook, which is updated annually, and regularly evaluates their practices against specific guidelines set forth in the document.

Close up of a hand flipping through the pages of a book
When Board President Valerie Mansfield first became a trustee in 2020, she said she was overwhelmed after being handed an orange binder stuffed with materials like policy notes, agendas and minutes from past meetings. The following year, a more formal governance handbook was made that now includes a section for new board members called “The Busy Life of an LTUSD Board Member,” which explains a trustee’s responsibilities and provides resources.

Overall, their handbook includes an introduction about California school boards and the new board member section; outlines the district motto, vision and mission; and highlights the board’s goals and priorities, their unity of purpose statement, roles, responsibilities and protocols.

Governance teams are not left on their own to invent policies, as Amy Christianson, CSBA Member Services Chief and Butte County Office of Education board member, noted. “Ninety-seven percent of districts in California are on GAMUT … and what that means is that you all have sample policies that are available to you on this journey. And I say sample because they are ones that provide guidance, they are for you and your board collectively to make more local and to work with your legal {advisor] to make sure that they stay within that guidance,” Christianson said. “They are not just ones you rubber stamp, they are yours to utilize to make your policies.”

Lake Tahoe USD leadership has taken strategic steps to draft a handbook and regularly evaluates their practices against specific guidelines set forth in the document.
Lake Tahoe USD’s process is replicable and could prove beneficial to other LEAs. Steps include learning how to create a governance handbook, publicly committing to the guidelines set in it, evaluating and reflecting on the board’s implementation of guidelines, and reviewing and revising the handbook as needed to move forward.

To begin, Lake Tahoe USD Superintendent Todd Cutler suggested reviewing current board policies on governance, reviewing and discussing board/superintendent protocols and determining what components, if any, the board would like to transfer to a new handbook.

Publicly committing to the cause by passing resolutions around governance standards and protocols at regularly scheduled meetings is the second step.

Third, Cutler recommended completing annual self and board evaluations and participating in reflection activities. A sample evaluation form includes questions around unity of purpose, governance standards and board protocols.

Lastly, based on board evaluations and discussions, the handbook can be reviewed for potential changes. An item should be placed on the board’s agenda to consider evaluations and revisions to the handbook.

Resources from the session are available to view at