Independent Schools – Board of Trustees

by John Littleford

As guardians of the school’s mission, a strong, stable, and wise board of trustees that understands its role ensures the ongoing health and well-being of an independent school. In consulting to hundreds of boards on the topic of healthy board governance, Littleford & Associates has identified these key traits of the ideal board member (in addition to adherence to the NAIS Principles of Good Practice):

• Wisdom

• A strategic outlook—not a narrow-minded, self-serving agenda

• Commitment and loyalty to the school’s mission

• Enthusiasm

• Availability to serve when needed without micromanaging

• Having no conflict of interest Along with identifying and recruiting new board members, the important Committee on Trustees or Nominating Committee builds stability by making sure that too much or too little turnover does not occur on the board. Excessive board turnover results in instability and a lack of institutional memory, while too little turnover creates stagnancy. Recruiting, orienting, training, evaluating, disciplining and removing (if necessary) trustees are extremely important in maintaining a mission-focused board that helps to guide independent schools in positive strategic directions.