Home' Independence : Independence Vol 33 No 2 Oct 2008 Contents Independence Volume 33 No. 2 53
most cases the move to governance by
school Boards is ill planned and at best
only partially implemented.
What often happens from our experience is
that Boards who have been engaging in the
operational aspect of schooling and who
then attempt to correct this by hopping
aboard the helicopter of governance can
lose their momentum or, worse, fall asleep
at the joystick! Too often Boards end up
abdicating their governance responsibility
as well as returning management functions
to the Principal or executive of the school.
In these cases the Board does indeed stop
micro-managing the Principal or executive
of the school, but does not move into creat-
ing governance policy or strategic planning
to achieve mission.
In this state a Board becomes a passive
consumer of management reports, the
kind of Board that offers at best a critique
of management-only created and inspired
mission goals, or at worst a rubber stamp-
ing committee of management. Board and
management also never engage effectively
with each other to generate new mis-
sion and direction for the school over the
longer term (generative governance).
When asked by Boards about how they can
be effective in their governance responsi-
bilities Resolve points to 12 healthy Board
characteristics. These characteristics are
based on the '12 key characteristics of
effective Boards' by Dr Robert Andringa,
and have been modified and adapted by
Resolve based on our observation and
experience after working with more than
300 schools, churches and not for profits
around Australia and internationally (see
table). They inform the Resolve Govern-
ance Framework, a relational framework
of governance designed specifically for such
At the end of the day the Board is
responsible for its own performance
and effectiveness. While it can look to
others to help it along the journey to
effective governance, it definitely should
not be relying only on its Principal or
executive to educate it in best prac-
tice governance. Many school Boards
govern multi-million dollar operations
which include sizable professional de-
velopment budgets, yet spend no money
to help the Board improve itself and
become more effective.
A common blockage to professional
development for school Boards is that as
volunteers Board members are so commit-
ted to the cause that they don't want to
waste money. Yet good governance is the
key to a successful independent school,
and certainly the means by which schools
can protect themselves against fraudulent
actions that undermine their own mission
David Bartlett is a Chartered Accountant (Fellow)
and Partner in Resolve Consulting, which consults
in the areas of governance, leadership and financial
management to schools, churches and not for
profits in Australia and internationally. He is the
co-founder of The Bursars Forum, Board Chair
of Christian Super and also serves on other school
and not for profit boards. Prior to entering con-
sulting in 2004 he was the Business Manager and
Company Secretary in a large independent school
for 13 years. For more information on Resolve's
Governance Framework visit www.resolveconsult-
ing.net or phone 02 4324 4800.
1 Chait, R.P., Ryan, W.P., Taylor, B.E. (2005).
Governance as Leadership -- Reframing the
Work of Non Profit Boards. Hoboken, NJ:
John Wiley and Sons Inc.
2 For an explanation of the generative model
of governance see Professor Richard Chait's
article, 'Governance as leadership' in Independ-
ence, Volume 31 No 2 (2006).
3 Carver, J. (1990). Boards that make a difference.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
12 Characteristics of Effective Boards
1 The Board's role is clear and distinct from that of staff.
2 The Board has a governance rather than management focus.
3 Board members understand when (and when not) to exercise their separate roles
of governor, volunteer and task implementer.
4 The Board links with its 'moral owners' (eg company membership, church, diocese).
5 The Board adopts clear, focused mission goals via a strategic planning process
that is linked to stakeholders (eg students, parents, staff).
6 The Principal or school executive are the one agent for the Board with delegated
authority to manage the school.
7 Board/governance policies are organised into a Board handbook, are reviewed
regularly and link to applicable school/management policies.
8 The Board Chair 'manages' the Board process without being a 'super director'.
9 Board committees serve Board needs and speak to the Board not for the Board.
10 Board meetings are well planned and papers well designed to include KPIs and
easy to understand reports.
11 Board members are selected on skill set mix and well oriented through an
12 The Board accepts responsibility for improving itself through governance training.
Links Archive Independence Vol 33 No 1 May 2008 Independence Vol 34 No 1 May 2009 Navigation Previous Page Next Page