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Mel Gravely

How to Set Impasse Procedures for your Head Start Board & Policy Council

In Head Start, shared governance is something we live by every day. From the very beginning, the framers of Head Start wanted to provide parents and community representatives with the authority and opportunity to participate in share decision-making concerning program design and implementation.

But as we know, as human beings, we sometimes disagree. That’s completely natural. Free discussion, both pro and con, through meaningful debate should be encouraged in your board and policy council meetings. Individuals should feel comfortable to express their opinions in an orderly and constructive fashion.

However, when two governance entities (in this case policy council and governing board) disagree, that’s when it may be necessary to implement impasse procedures.

What is an impasse?

An impasse is a deadlock that occurs when a grantee or delegate agency and its policy group cannot reach agreement on a proposed action.

What do the Performance Standards say about impasse procedures?

Head Start encourages all delegate agencies to resolve any impasse at the local level to avoid disruption of services to Head Start children and families.

From section 1301.6 of the Head Start Performance Standards:

To facilitate meaning consultation and collaboration about decisions of the governing body and the policy council, each agency’s governing body and policy council jointly must establish written procedures for resolving internal disputes between the two entities in a timely manner, including impasse procedures.

What should it say in my bylaws?

Impasse procedures should be clearly outlined in the agency’s bylaws. It should include:

  • Procedures for notifying the other entity in writing about why they disagree.
  • Exactly how the groups will communicate to resolve the dispute.
  • Timeline for resolution.

What happens if the two entities can’t reach agreement on their own?

While very rare, there may be an occasion where the two entities cannot agree, even after attempts to work it out. In that case, the Performance Standards state:

(b) If the agency’s decision-making process does not result in a resolution and an impasse continues, the governing body and policy council must select a mutually agreeable third party mediator and participate in a formal process of mediation that leads to a resolution of the dispute.

(c) For all programs except American Indian and Alaska Native programs, if no resolution is reached with a mediator, the governing body and policy council must select a mutually agreeable arbitrator whose decision is final.

The Gravely Group is committed to providing you with the program governance procedures to help make your agency successful. For more information on parliamentary law, bylaws, meeting procedures, and more, consider our guidebook: “Board & Policy Council Handbook for Effective Head Start Meetings.

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