The Board Chair and Head of School: A Necessary Relationship

Responsible for administrative items and larger-scale initiatives (e.g. endowment, building and grounds management, operations and school culture), the board chair and head of school are a direct representation of an institution’s values. 

Continue reading to better understand how you can maintain a strong relationship between these two parties at your school and why it’s so important. SCHOOL.png

A Happy Administration

According to Peter Calfee, president of Calfee Financial, the head of a school “can’t afford to NOT have a relationship with the board chair.” This relationship is critical to the happiness and success of the administration, and is best managed by the head of school.

The board chair and head of school are responsible for managing the reputation and public image of the institution. In addition, they discuss budget, faculty compensation, capital campaigns, strategy, and the application and acceptance process.

Their collaboration sets the foundation and direction for other relationships throughout the school. For example, the head of school often only has a cordial relationship with board members, not a personal one. It is the role of the board chair to manage board member relationships ongoing, Likewise, the head manages relationships with the school’s business managers and staff.

Transparency in Communications

Without effective communication between the board chair and head of school, major projects, and even the school’s reputation, could suffer. As such, the head needs to understand the culture of the community and school, and know when to share information with the board. Open communication builds trust and confidence within the school, which can alleviate problems, such as micromanaging, inefficiencies, broken rules, and unhappy students and staff.

As Calfee states, “Neither party can be a mind reader.” The best work results from honesty and transparency in expectations; short, intermediate and long-term goals; and responsibilities.

To achieve this, the two parties should have a heart-to-heart conversation on management styles and personalities. By knowing how someone works, interactions and roles can be structured to capitalize on each individual’s strengths. For example, perhaps the head excels at building the school’s vision and culture; whereas, the board chair is strong at team building and collaboration. An innate understanding of the other’s work style also helps you overcome built-in disconnects related to either individual’s background or aspirations.

To facilitate strong communication, the head and board chair also need to agree upon the best way to communicate and how often. This may be via email, phone, in-person meetings or even a board portal. And the relationship should be documented—including contract offers, benchmarks and goals, promises, programs and reviews—to ensure fair head compensation and adequate succession planning.

Remember too that the relationship shouldn’t be all business. The board chair and head should spend time together outside of the school. For example, they can grab lunch or a coffee to get to know each other on an individual level.

Relationships of all types are important at your school, but some provide a foundation and example for others to grow. The board chair and head of school is the perfect example. For more ideas on how to improve board operations, download a copy of our Board Management Tips and Tricks Guide

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Image Source: naosuke ii