The Six Principles of Successful Board / Head Partnerships

Principle I

The board focuses on governance, not management. Effective school boards empower administrators to run their schools. In other words, board members establish the desired outcomes while enabling the head of school to determine the methods. The board neither micromanages nor rubber stamps. Rather, successful boards spend their time focusing on fundamental issues and major policy decisions.

Principle II

The board has one employee: the head of school. A basic tenet of governance is that the board hires the head who in turn hires all the other faculty and staff. The board views the head’s role similar to one of CEO; thus, all accountability rests upon the head of school alone. For instance, the board would not hold the lunchroom supervisor accountable for raucous behavior; the head alone is responsible to the board.

Principle III

The head of school has only one employer: the board as a whole. A board that ethically governs makes it known that the head is responsible only to the unified board. Thus, the head is not faced with the political pressure of fielding the special interests of individual trustees. Likewise, board members understand that their collective responsibility takes precedence over their individual relationship with the head.

Principle IV

The board creates committees to help accomplish its own job, not the head’s job. The board does not create committees to direct in the day-to-day management of the school. Essentially, committees such as education or personnel are duplicative of the managerial duties assigned to the head. In addition, these committees compromise the board’s duty to speak as a cohesive unit. Conversely, the board should create committees to help with its own responsibilities; for example a governance committee, finance committee, and an ESAT committee.

Principle V

The board evaluates its head through an Executive Support and Appraisal Team. This committee is charged by the board to jointly establish the head’s annual and long-term performance goals. These objectives are based on the school’s annual agenda and firmly rooted in its mission. The ESAT meets with the head during the year to assess progress and then, at year’s end, reports its findings to the greater board. In this model, the board engages the head in a proactive and ethical evaluation process.

Principle VI

The board conducts its own annual self-appraisal. After a board is trained and educated in this governance model, the board appraises its efficacy on a yearly basis. Board members have a fiduciary responsibility to the school and its constituency to assure that their roles and responsibilities are being carried out appropriately and productively. A board that strategically appraises its head and concurrently appraises itself sends a powerful message to the school community.