Board Support of the Head of School
Sally Mixsell | April 28, 2022
SPEAK AS ONE VOICE
Read and heed the “NAIS Best Practices of Trustees” at https://www.nais.org/media/Nais/PGPs/NAIS_PGP_ISTrustees_2017.pdf and pick up a copy of Trustee Handbook: A Guide to Effective Governance for Independent School Boards by Mary Hundley DeKuyper, published by NAIS.
- Ensure your voice is the voice of the Board regarding any decisions that may be questioned. Don’t share any dissident personal opinion you might hold once a Board decision has been shared publicly.
- Direct all complaints that come your way to the Head of School. Don’t engage in “gossipy” conversation with other parents or school employees, nor take on their complaint(s) and offer to do something with it, regardless of your personal relationships. That is not your role as a trustee.
There are many resources available on the public websites of these organizations and if that isn’t sufficient you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out and call them when you are dealing with particularly difficult situations.
You also have access to the data, articles and other pieces of information on the NAIS website that are reserved for member schools. Your name and email just have to have been submitted by someone at the school in order to give you access. The Head’s Assistant can usually be a good resource for this information or the person to submit your contact information.
Attend your regional or national trustee conference annually, ideally with the Head. This act alone can signal to your Head of School and the community that you care enough about your role as a Board Member that you want to grow in it. It is also an opportunity to have an informal day with the Head and other trustees, thus building a stronger group dynamic.
Focus on your board work in a way that doesn’t lead to burn out. Take on only what you can to be able to give your best work to the school and the Head.
There are two things to consider. First, be on few enough committees to be able to fully invest your time and energy in them. In my experience, no one should be on more than two, if that. Everyone has difficulty saying no to responsibility and a tendency to overextend themselves, so clear limits on expectations are universally beneficial. You can help the Head and others place reasonable expectations on Trustee volunteer time by ensuring the roles of each volunteer body of the school are well-defined and in writing.
Keep close tabs on your fiduciary responsibility to view the school at the 30,000 foot level with an eye to the future. Stay current with independent school board work. Take some time to read, think, and listen to those who know and understand independent schools in order to bring relevant ideas to the table. Some places to begin include the NAIS Trendbook (annual), the NAIS magazine Independent School (quarterly by subscription), BoardSource.org, Governance as Leadership by Chait, Ryan, and Taylor, or the NAIS podcast The Trustee Table.
Interested in learning more about how we can help?