November 1, 2014
Online Journal - Adventist School Board
Lloyd Robinson, Superintendent, British Columbia Conference, Abbotsford, BC

A critical component of any successful Adventist school is an informed and efficient local board. I have put together a summary sheet highlighting some items that may assist boards with school governance.
 
Board composition:
 
The ideal board member will have a passion for Adventist education, spiritual and personal maturity, and available time. The board member must put the school’s interest ahead of their own interests, or the interests of the church who elected them. They must be willing to say what is on their mind, even when it is a minority opinion, and they must be willing to accept the decision of the majority. All board members must be able to debate while respecting the opinions of others, and most importantly, be willing to delegate. In other words, let the principal do their job.
 
Preparing for the board meeting:
 
The agenda needs to be set by the chair with assistance from the principal. If there are items needing action, it is helpful to have a worded motion along with all the backup materials on the topic available with the agenda. The agenda and all supporting documentation need to be sent to each board member 4-5 days before the meeting.
 
The chair should never add anything to the agenda at the last minute. It is important that all board members have plenty of time to review documentation and be educated on the topic prior to the board meeting. Any member wishing to add something to the agenda should contact the chair several weeks beforehand with a rationale, documentation, and a worded motion.
 
At the meeting:
 
All school board meetings need to operate under strict time guidelines. Generally 90 minutes is more than enough time to conduct the business of the board. Board meetings and decisions need to be made in person or by conference call. Email votes should be avoided at all costs.
 
Regular reports can form the “consent” agenda. These reports are sent out ahead of time so they do not have to be read at the meeting. The author of the report should not repeat what was written, but can be asked if there is anything to add. Board members may ask questions of the report. The items in the consent agenda should all be received in one motion and vote.
 
During the meeting, it is important that one item at a time be discussed.  Each item needs to be clearly introduced along with the type of decision that will need to be made. Everyone must be given the opportunity to speak to the item under discussion. Any disagreements must focus on the topic, not the person giving their opinion. Discussions should not be rushed, but the chair will need to ensure that it does not bog down, stall, or become circular. Motions need to be clear, highlighting who is to do what, by when, and within what boundaries.
 
Although Adventist school board meetings are “open” to constituents, it is important that board members maintain confidentiality regarding board discussions and how individual board members voted. If you have many visitors, the chair may decide to have members vote by secret ballot.
 
Decisions can be made public unless they were made “in-camera.” In-camera discussions and decisions are for board members only and typically involve issues of salary, personnel issues, legal matters, and appeal processes.
 
A key concept is board solidarity. It is important that every board member, regardless of how they personally voted, be able to say “I accept the decision of the board.” The board speaks as one voice regarding decisions of the board. This voice can be via the board minutes, but is typically carried by the chair or the principal. The board may also appoint a spokesperson for various decisions.
 
In summary:
 
It is important that the board members remember to major on the majors and delegate the rest to the employees. Be aware of school policies and official documents and regulations. Keep meetings short, pay attention to previous board decisions, and don’t waste time rehashing those discussions. Become a board of action, not reaction. Respect boundaries with the school staff and avoid group think.