Action minutes are a good habit to get into not only for Board sessions, but for all kinds of meetings—committee, management, faculty. Effective action minutes serve as a “to do” list. They define the task and who will carry it out, set a deadline, and include any pertinent suggestions for strategy—without stifling the individual’s or committee’s initiative. Consider the impact an action minute has in the following situations.
A family at the Montessori Children’s House of Durham (NC) had enrolled their daughter for first and second grade, but wavered on having her attend third grade. The parents were concerned about class size and the teacher time students received. The family eventually re-enrolled the girl, signing a tuition agreement that required the family to pay $12,610 in tuition for the upcoming school year.
Back in the summer of 2015, President Simon Newman of Mount St. Mary’s University developed a plan to improve the institution’s student retention numbers by culling 20–25 first-year students before the end of September. The federal government requires colleges and universities to submit the number of enrollees each semester, and the Mount’s cutoff date was September 25. The President’s office created a student survey to administer during freshman orientation, specifically designed to determine who to dismiss. The rationale was artificially to boost retention by 4%–5%.
Committees are the linchpins of an effective Board. When Board meetings are well-attended, purposeful, and gratifying, this foundation usually grows out of understanding and applying the principles of properly establishing committees. The key to success is identifying, recruiting, and managing strong leaders—a critical role shared by the Board President, the Committee on Trustees, and the School Head. Committees are only as strong as the people who lead them.
You, a new Trustee, walk across the school parking lot for a meeting with the School Head. You’re approached by a mother who immediately launches into a tirade about the fourth-grade teacher. “Tom, my child isn’t being treated fairly, and I expect you to do something about it!”
Sound familiar? In some schools, parents often contact Trustees with their complaints. They see Board members as the top of the power structure and, therefore, the best path to results. In turn, Trustees—out of an understandable desire to be cooperative and helpful, or an inability to say “no” to a concerned and demanding parent, or a basic misunderstanding of their role in the life of the school—often leap into the fray.
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.
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