As we outline in our ECIS Effective Governance quality standards and in our tome Governance in International Schools, trustees and governors, in partnership with the head of school, play a critical leadership role in international schools. Effective practices, policies, and behaviours at the governance level comprise an essential part of the foundation of stable and strong international schools, and that holds true whether we are considering not-for-profit or for-profit governing boards.
To venture into the world of international schools is to recognise the immense responsibility that comes with education; namely, to provide transformative experiences of learning that will empower young people to serve as promising change-makers, key influencers, and leaders around the world. Although trustees and governors of all types of international schools must pay attention to the operational bottom line, they must acknowledge that they serve as the custodians of the growth and development of young people, an awesome undertaking.
Schools confront issues such as risk management, planning for innovation, and fundraising that are sometimes not as clear as similar functions in typical corporations. What remains clear, however, is that there is no difference in the fiduciary duties and responsibilities of those comprising the governing body. ECIS Governance Foundations allows you to examine a number of key roles fulfilled by the governing body, with due attention given, where needed, to any distinctions between not-for-profit and for-profit boards.
The duty of care and stewardship that comes with serving on the governing body of the school cannot be understated; it is of immense importance, when we consider the lives we are preparing. Yet members of the governing body need to be careful that they do not spend all their time in the fiduciary mode of governance, focusing exclusively on finances, integrity, compliance, and legal liabilities. Boards need to get it right, of course, yet to hold the school ‘in trust’ for others necessitates that board members exercise the strategic and generative modes as well, ensuring a healthy and strong school for years to come. There are few more rewarding experiences in life.