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Governance and Leadership: The Board and Head of School Relationship

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Presentation on theme: "Governance and Leadership: The Board and Head of School Relationship"— Presentation transcript:

1 Governance and Leadership: The Board and Head of School Relationship
Steve Dill Senior Vice President ACSI, USA I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

2 Which of the following are appropriate board issues?
Mrs. Jones perceived ineffectiveness as a third grade teacher. Mr. Green’s perceived ineffectiveness as the school principal (head of school). The budget allocation for textbooks and supplies. Mrs. Smith (school parent) stopping you (the board member) after church to discuss Mrs. Jones (teacher) unfair treatment of her son. Ongoing misbehavior/bad testimony of the boys soccer team. Approving next year’s tuition and the overall school budget.

3 Assumptions make a difference

4 Assumptions Schools rise and fall on leadership.
Effective school leadership depends on both head of school and board. Personal character qualities and skills are more important than structures. School heads and school boards must be concerned about professional development and evaluation.

5 Four primary functions of a Christian school board:
Mission integrity – guard, protect, inspect – the implementation of the mission. Money - fiduciary trust – finance, audit, investment, facilities - preserve/expand the assets Nurture – hire, nurture, affirm, evaluate, encourage, support – and if necessary – fire – the Head of School. Support – pray without ceasing; speak positively; give financially.

6 Most common problems with boards:
Loss of institutional memory: board turnover loses connections to the thinking behind prior board decisions, leads to significant changes in board perspectives. Well meaning board members who assume responsibility in specific management, personnel, or curricular issues Failure to realize that when you joined the board you gave up the right to criticize a teacher, the principal, or anything about the school – outside of the board room. Communication: Failure of the Board to give systematic, meaningful feedback – positive and negative – to the principal; and failure of the principal to communicate the bad news/potential problems to the Board– selectively emphasizing the good news and minimizing the bad news. Off balance on the “rubber stamp to micromanage” continuum

7 Most common board problems with heads:
Indecisive head of school who “needs to check with the board” on anything of significance. This puts the board into making decisions that are not theirs, and prevents the board from spending time on the right issues. Encouraging the board to focus on short term issues and day to day operations. Allowing board to make “Mrs. Jones effectiveness as a third grade teacher” or dress code enforcement as board issues. Failure to keep the board informed about bad news or upcoming challenges or issues. (Surprises do not build confidence.) Not supporting board members or board decisions with staff, parents or students.

8 Why do many Heads of School leave …. Not by their choice?
Board turnover. The board that hired the head is gone after a few years; the honeymoon is followed by significant change; followed by opposition and resistance; followed by a board that doesn’t remember why they hired this head. A minimum of 7-8 yrs is needed to make an impact; 9-15 years is the usual period when a head can accomplish all that one person can do as a leader of a school; but the average tenure for a head of school is 5 years (USA). (J. Littleford))

9 Why do most Heads of School leave - not by their choice?
2. Head fails to manage the pace of change appropriately. Most teachers are caregivers – not change agents. (Changing the copy machine without lead time might get you fired in some schools ……) Key constituencies for the Head to manage/serve: (1) Board, (2) Faculty/staff, (3) Parents, (4) Students. 3. An “incident” – moral failure, dismissal of a popular teacher or coach or student, technology/Facebook issue, etc.

10 Why a Christian corporate governance model?
“For profit” enterprises have shareholders expecting a financial return, but Christian organizations have different parameters: Christian (schools) serve a community of “Moral Owners” who have come together to support a specific kingdom ministry. Christian schools operate as a Christian community, relying heavily on relationships to hold them together. Christian schools have a vision and mission that relates to serving others Thus ….a relationship driven model is needed…

11 Modified Carver PG Models

12 Expectations for the Head of School


14 The Leadership Command Center

15 Relational Competencies

16 Strategic Competencies


18 The Board Member’s Two Hats and One Voice
Board member hat. Worn only when attending a duly called board meeting or board committee meeting. (under the authority of the board chair) Head of School does not wear this hat. Parent/volunteer hat. Worn all other times – in dealing with teachers or parents. When giving advice or sharing expertise with the Head of School. (under the authority of the Head of School) One Voice. In the board room – vigorous debate and open differences of opinion – prayerfully leading to agreement. Outside the board room – supporting the decisions of the board.

19 Best Practice: A Mutually Supportive Board/Head relationship
The primary issue is whether or not the board is fully supporting, nurturing, affirming, and encouraging the head – while also acting as the ultimate authority in the school and providing a balanced review of the head’s performance. In a similar way, the head of school must be fully supportive of the board – publicly and in private conversation – and must take concerns directly to the board. Board Head relationship A majority % of board issues come through a breakdown in the board-chair head relationship. The board chair is the key link between the head and the board. Head should be empowered and accountable.

20 Best Practices for Boards
Ideal Board size: 9-15 Should boards include non-current parents? Schedule: 6-8 times a year, 2-3 hr meeting, plus annual board retreat Committees: fewer is better than many Trustee/Nominating/Board training/evaluation Finance (Audit, Investment included) Head Support (evaluation; encouragement/support) Advancement/Development Executive/Governance (officers) Ad Hoc as needed: facilities, strategic planning Annual agenda and goals

21 Best Practice: Head Annual Performance Review
Mutual discussion and agreement over the annual review components and process. 3-5 annual goals (mutual discussion); clear job description Mid year discussion Head does self evaluation at year end Board Instrument – each board member does their own write up; goes to board chair/Head support chair; Board discusses draft in executive session. (generally, the only executive session) Annual write up should include commendations and recommendations

22 Best Practice: Board Annual Performance Review
Mutual discussion and agreement over the annual review components and process. Board members do a self evaluation annually and also an evaluation of how well the board and chair have functioned. Trustee committee compiles results and shares overall results with the full Board. Trustee committee uses results in deciding whether or not to recommend continued board service for individual board members. Chair has the responsibility of dealing with rogue board members.

23 Desirable Traits in a Board Candidate (and traits to avoid)
Passion for and a commitment to the school’s mission Wisdom; spiritual maturity (not knowledge or skills for hire) The ability to think and act strategically rather than micromanage Public and private support of the Head Financial resources – combined with wisdom – strengthens the school. The inability to take off the “parent hat” Conflicts of interest or the potential for a conflict Independent “cowboy” behavior or a tendency to engage in boundary crossing Any showing of lack of support for the Head

24 Committee on Trustees or Nominating Committee
The most important Board committee but often nonexistent or inactive Recruits, screens, invites, develops and trains wise board members Evaluates the board’s performance and corrects inappropriate behaviors Preserves institutional memory by minimizing trustee and chair turnover Continually assesses the current mix of talent and wisdom on the board including balance of current parents, past parents, and non-parents.

25 Orient & Train Evaluate
Onboarding of new board members All board members (even experienced ones) benefit from annual training Board Self Evaluation Effectiveness of Chair Quality of meetings Effectiveness of committees Support for the Head Individual evaluation: attendance, understanding/doing healthy board governance Spiritually mature, professional relationships with other trustees.

26 Preserving institutional memory while bringing on fresh leadership and enthusiasm.
Boards need to minimize turnover of trustees who remember the mission of the school and why the current head was hired. Term limits? Common : two 3 yr terms Consider 3 terms of 3 years each Assumes annual effective evaluation of each trustee Chair terms of 3-5 years; most heads do not survive their 4th board chair No term limits can work if the Committee on Trustees is active and effective.

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