Private-independent schools, always aware of the need to perpetually market their programs, often wonder what draws families to private education. What are the latest trends? How can we enhance our efforts to recruit mission-appropriate students?
At many private schools, the Board is an invisible power rather than an integral and involved part of the school community.Your constituents may find it difficult to accept that your school is one of the highest priorities in a Trustee’s life if they never see evidence of that individual’s involvement. It is important to set up a program to ensure Board members are readily recognizable to faculty, parents, and students.
Most schools realize the wisdom of including an attorney among the members of the Board. During meetings, a lawyer can respond to general legal questions and provide perspective and proactive advice on potentially difficult issues. The attorney acting as a Trustee on your Board is qualified, knows the school, and may also provide services at either reduced cost or gratis. So, why not entrust him or her with handling all of your school’s legal needs?
In the last issue of our Trustee e-letter, we highlighted the two primary responsibilities of the Board: to preserve the trust (including the inherent fiscal duties) and to protect itself from legal liabilities. Depending on the terms of the school’s charter, other responsibilities accrue to the Board—charges that are generally more moral than legal.
No matter how conscientious and well-intentioned, Trustees (and the Board as a whole) must continually guard against involvement in day-to-day school management. When the Board allows its responsibilities to cross over into the operating plane of the school, it creates a major obstacle to building and maintaining a healthy, harmonious Board/Head relationship.
Regardless of how well a school defines the various roles of the Board, it is imperative that the members understand to whom and to what the Board is truly responsible. The Board’s constituency is not comprised of the current students, parents, faculty, or administrators. Trustees must keep in mind that their charge is to maintain the essential character and integrity of the institution and ensure that it remains viable to serve the children of today’s students.
As the leader of the Board and the person responsible for conducting its meetings, the President is often torn between the desire to express personal views on an issue and the need to generate and moderate discussion in an unbiased manner. Consequently, Presidents are apt to refrain from casting their own votes lest they lose a dimension of their leadership by revealing how they stand (perhaps, on occasion, in opposition to the Head). How should a Board President behave? The President has the right—and certainly the responsibility—to vote, but sensitivity to the leadership role is appropriate. Sometimes it can be a tough call.
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