Nothing Substitutes for the Right Tool for the Job

What resources are available to an independent or faith-based school beyond the board of trustees? I encourage school leadership to consider forming another body that can be an excellent resource, or tool in the tool kit. This body is the advisory board – not in any way a governing body. These are incredibly useful tools. But as tools go, it can be the right tool or the wrong tool depending on how they are being utilized.

Advisory boards may have different names, but they all fill a specific function. They also provide the school’s leadership with tremendous insight and wisdom from a demographically broad spectrum in such areas as daily operation procedures, feedback regarding the introduction of various programmatic initiatives, strategic thinking, fundraising, and much more.

Their composition can vary widely from that of the board of trustees. Without the fiduciary responsibility or concern for hiring the head, you can open the doors to other very capable and perceptive people who otherwise may or may not be considered for membership on the board of trustees. These might include former faculty and staff, trustees, parents, parents of alumni, grandparents, alumni, vendors, friends of the school, and the broader community. Even a current trustee might be in the mix. The question becomes which constituencies to include, depending upon objectives, and which to exclude and why.

If an advisory board is not already provided for in the bylaws, I recommend this be considered. It will identify the advisory board’s specific duties and limitations, its accountability and meeting frequency, and prevent it from encroaching into areas and processes that was not intended. The advisory board itself may or may not have bylaws or guidelines for that matter. The head and key school leaders should determine how best to utilize such a board.

In Chapter 25 of my new book, Healthy Boards-Successful Schools, you will find a full discussion of advisory boards. To view a short video on this topic, click here.