The New Board President and the Head-Elect: A Working Relationship
Vol. 14 No. 6
An incumbent Board President often steps down as a new Head takes over. It is seen as a logical time for the transfer of power—allowing a long-term relationship to develop between the new Head and a new President. The next President is selected by the Trustees without the Head-elect’s input. (What input could be knowledgeably given?)
However, the new Head may well have been influenced to accept the job based on the “chemistry” demonstrated with the existing President and key Trustees on the Search Committee. A new President changes all of this. Moreover, if other leading Trustees move on at the same time, the team envisioned by the new Head is greatly altered.
Schools searching for a new School Head should consider announcing any presidential changes or Trustee departures before facing finalists. Alternatively, the Board should postpone any pending presidential change for another year so the new Head may provide critical, informed input.
The Board President-School Head relationship is a crucial one. Much depends on mutual respect and open communications—don’t complicate matters with more challenges than those that already confront a new Head.
The Board President is critical in selecting a new Head—but that is only one of the many essential functions of this position. As a Board President, you can find specific assistance in various professional development events (including the ISM Summer Institute workshop, The Board Presidency).
The leader of the Board and the leader of your school are partners. One cannot function without the understanding, guidance, and respect of the other. It is, in fact, a marriage of sorts. And, like other marriages, it is subject to ups and downs, honeymoons and divorces. Obviously, the welfare of the school is critically dependent on a successful marriage.
Each should concentrate on the responsibilities that are primary to that office. The Board President attends to areas of overall policy and general financial well-being; the School Head focuses on the many aspects of daily school operations. Yet each must delve into the other’s areas if the relationship is to be meaningful and supportive. The Head must anticipate the problems to be faced by the President and the Board, drawing the President’s attention to these areas. Likewise, the President must be aware of what is happening in the school, remaining current on attitudes or situations that could develop into problems.
The transformation into a team requires much effort and time. The Board Presidency should be that person’s top priority outside family and earning a living. (And there are times when job and family may take a back seat.) Phone calls from the Head must be answered or returned immediately. The Head and the President should arrange weekly meetings. Even if they set aside only an hour each Wednesday morning for coffee, the uninterrupted time enables these two leaders to relate and work together. There can be no secrets between the two—mutual trust is the goal.
To guarantee smooth operation of the school and a “successful marriage,” the compatibility of personalities is, of course, essential and even critical. Trustees are well aware of personality when selecting a School Head. They should be equally aware of personality when choosing a President. In fact, it is wise for the nominating body of the Board to involve the Head in that selection process.
All marriages are demanding on the partners. But those who work at making the marriage successful have the pleasure of seeing the development of their family. Your school “family” deserves a successful “marriage” between the School Head and the Board President.
Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Trustees Vol. 11 No. 10 How to Enhance Board-Head Relationships
Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 28 No. 16 Board/Head Relationships: Brutal Facts and Eternal Faith
I&P Vol. 32 No. 1 The Board’s Contract With the School head: Solidify Expectations, Define Relationships