Governance Resources

Trusteeship 101: How Schools Work

This PowerPoint presentation by Patrick F. Bassett, the President of NAIS, explores the basic definition of an independent school and the role of the four powerful decision-making bodies within a school (board of trustees, parents association, faculty, and head and administrative team) and presents case studies about the boundaries between them.

Trusteeship 201

This presentation by Patrick F. Bassett, the President of NAIS, is the companion piece to Trusteeship 101. Whereas 101 focuses on the basis job description of the board and the boundaries between head and board and parent body and faculty, 201 focuses on new themes and forms of governance. It also addresses emergent issues for governance and leadership.

Note: You must have Microsoft PowerPoint installed on your computer to view these presentations.

Board Evaluation: Improving Independent School Governance

It is important for Boards of Trustees to appraise their effectiveness in school governance. According to a recent BoardSource study, only 38 percent of all nonprofit boards formally assess their performance. Of that 38 percent, 75 percent administer a written survey. The majority of boards engaging in self-assessment do so annually. ISAS Standards for Membership require that member school boards conduct annual self-evaluations. Parents can be confident that ISAS schools endeavor to benefit from the assessment opportunities and competencies of annual evaluation.

BoardSource explains that board self-assessment provides board members with an opportunity to:

  • Reflect on individual and school responsibilities.
  • Identify different perceptions and opinions among board members.
  • Point to questions that need attention.
  • Use the results as a springboard for board improvement.
  • Increase the level of board teamwork.
  • Clarify mutual board/staff expectations.
  • Demonstrate that accountability is a serious organizational value.
  • Provide credibility with funders and other external audiences.
  • Look internally in addition to assessing the Head and school programs.

Researchers Richard Chait, Thomas Holland, and Barbara Taylor conducted a five-year study called the Trustee Demonstration Project. They identified six competencies which lead to board excellence. These competencies can be measured through an evaluation tool:

  • Contextual dimension: Trustee has a good understanding of the organization and its context.
  • Educational dimension: The communication/education among trustees and the organization is strong. Time is spent analyzing board strengths and weaknesses.
  • Interpersonal dimension: The Board encourages shared vision, teamwork, and group decision-making.
  • Analytical dimension: Trustees take a careful, in-depth look at all issues, drawing from the backgrounds/perspectives of board members.
  • Political dimension: The organization and Board share an understanding of and respect for building strong relationships with key constituents.
  • Strategic dimension: The Board helps shape the organization.

Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS) has developed a trustee evaluation model which can be adapted and used by member schools. The survey may be conducted online for a reasonable fee. Contact the ISAS office to arrange for this service.

BoardSource: Building Effective Nonprofit Boards

NAIS Independent School Trustee Handbook

The 20 Year Headship

Trustee Monographs

See links in the right column.

Valuable NAIS PowerPoints for Trustees

Note: You must have Microsoft PowerPoint installed on your computer to view these presentations.

  • Diversity: Governance and Leadership

    This PowerPoint outlines the essential leadership issues and governance questions to consider as a school moves toward greater diversity.

  • Evaluating Boards, Heads, Administration, and Faculty

    This PowerPoint presents an overview of the basic issues relating to evaluation of faculty and administrators (by the head of school) and the evaluation of heads and trustees (by the board), examining the leadership issues, the relationship to strategic planning and goal setting, and the various "definitions of the job" as indicated by NAIS surveys of school heads and board leadership. Utilizing the NAIS/BoardSource Online Assessment Tool, the presentation recommends a model for board evaluation, with results benchmarked against aggregate results for independent schools. Finally, the presentation addresses the larger question of evaluating the success of one's school by "dashboard indicators" and by a "balanced scorecard approach."

  • Evaluation and Compensation for Heads

    This PowerPoint presents various models and process considerations for boards in their annual evaluation of school heads. Beyond evaluation issues, boards are now confronted with more stringent standards for making and documenting head compensation decisions. The presentation explores the issues of best practices for setting compensation and for doing so in a way that compensates a head fairly, competitively, and defensibly ("safe harbor" procedures to establish a "rebuttable presumption" to IRS intermediate sanctions.)

  • Exceptional Boards

    This PowerPoint, based upon a publication available from BoardSource, outlines an approach to defining good governance (The Source: Twelve Principles of Governance that Power Exceptional Boards). Boards can use the outline to provoke discussion on the application of each principle to their independent school culture, leadership, and governance.

  • Head Search

    This PowerPoint presentation examines the steps schools should follow as they launch into a head search: definition of the job, leadership variables, the relationship to the school strategic plan, protocols to follow, and the schedule.

  • Making Principled Decisions: NAIS Case Studies for School Leaders and Boards of Trustees

    This presentation addresses issues and challenges faced by leaders of independent schools in the context of decision-making models and increased calls for accountability by constituents. It focuses on “teaming” issues for administrative and board leadership and is appropriate for various groups: school heads and board members, administrators, or affinity groups (heads, business managers, admissions directors, development directors, technology directors, etc.). Links to several NAIS case studies and filmed vignettes are included to “deconstruct” in terms of leadership/governance issues and ethical principles of good practice.