What's The Magic Formula Behind An Effective Private School Board of Governors?

Our firm has worked with for-profit and non-profit schools around the globe and recognize that high performing schools have a number of key attributes in place. Though some of the parameters of the two models may vary, our belief is that a sound school will be grounded by four cornerstones:

Private School Board Governance Consulting Firm

One of the key attributes of successful schools is a board that can effectively govern their school and one that understands their role and responsibilities within the oversight of their institution in partnership with senior leadership. Providing oversight for an organization should not vary whether the institution is a non-profit or for-profit. By definition, an effective board should be engaged in long-range issues and planning (rather than day-to-day operations) and "big picture" planning, budgeting, and approval. This includes a focus on:

  • Defining/affirming the school's mission and providing overall leadership and strategic direction for the school.
  • Actively setting policy and ensuring the school has adequate resources to carry out its mission and programs.
  • Providing direct oversight and direction for the Head of School and responsibility for evaluating the Head's performance and their own effectiveness as a governing body.
  • Acting as representatives for their community in upholding the public interest served by the school.

Really there's no magic formula for effective boards; just an ability for members to adhere to clear and proven principles of governance and oversight. However, the barriers to an effective board mislead by a:

  • Temptation to micro-manage.
  • Ineffective nominating committee.
  • No plan for rotation.
  • Failure to remove unproductive members.
  • Too small.
  • Lack of functioning committee structure.
  • No strategic plan.
  • No plan for orientation of new and old members.
  • No proactive plan to manage founder's syndrome.

If you were to take a 'snapshot' of your board's health, the following responsibilities should be present:

  • Establish and articulate the school's mission, vision, and values.
  • Ensure the school engages in long-term planning to achieve the mission.
  • Recruit and select the Head of School.
  • Support and assess the performance of the Head of School.
  • Determine the programs the school will deliver to accomplish its goals and monitor performance of these programs to assess value.
  • Ensure the school has adequate financial resources to implement the plan's priorities.
  • Ensure effective management and use of the school's financial resources.
  • Enhance the school's credibility and public image.
  • Ensure organizational integrity and accountability.
  • Assess and develop the board's own effectiveness to govern and negate involvement in in day-to-day management.

Building on this, an effective board is guided by the following principles:

  • Distinction between governance work of the board and management work of the staff.
  • Distinction between the "ends and means" with a bias in favour of high impact decision-making.
  • Clarity about who does what - specifically what the board and staff do.

But the board cannot do it alone. There must be a constructive partnership with the Head of School. To do this, there needs to be: open and honest communication; common expectations; cooperative planning; and respect.

Next Step
If you would like to find out more about how we can support your board's ongoing development, please contact HEG by email at info@halladayeducationgroup.com or calling directly at +1-604-868-0002.

To your success,

Douglas Halladay
Halladay Education Group