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The “Virtual” School Board Retreat

  • 01 September 2020
  • Online

Sustaining a High-Performing Board in Today’s Challenging Times

The practice of sojourning into "retreat", stepping off the grid for a few moments of focused discourse and discovery on how an international school board will fulfill its governing responsibilities is essential for a number of reasons. Not only does it fulfill the accreditation mandate for professional development of the board itself, but a carefully designed retreat also promotes the sense of team within the Board and partnership with the Head of School. A carefully planned retreat will also enable the Board to identify specific governance goals and determine the direction for the year ahead.

KEY AUDIENCEHead of School and Board Members

As a result of attending this institute, school board teams can potentially expect to:

  • Understand each other’s concept of what it means to be a Board member and what their expectations of the Board are.
  • Grow as a team: understanding each other's perspective and expectations, committing to effective team characteristics, and producing results while maintaining working capacity.
  • Recognize the importance of clear, consistent, carefully crafted foundational statements that define the character of the school and guide decision making, from the boardroom to the classroom.
  • Understand the roles and responsibilities of the board, individual board members, and the Director with particular attention to handling challenging issues: as prescribed in the school's foundational documents, as informed by best practices in International Schools, and as appropriate for their own preferred school culture.
  • Recognize the value of all three modes of governance; fiduciary, strategic, and generative and determine how to be a "Strategic Board".
  • Review the current Strategic Plan, consider alternatives in the Strategic Planning process, and determine a framework for updating/renewing the school's Strategic Plan.
  • Clarify its responsibility for "accountability" by reviewing strategies that sustain a culture of accountability.
  • Review research-based practices of high-performing Boards and determine its own rubric for being a highly effective Board.


Rick Detwiler
Rick has worked with school boards as head of five international schools over the past 25 years. Currently, Rick consults with NESA on its Governance Initiative, in conjunction with his work conducting board training, policy review, and strategic planning workshops for international schools throughout the world. Most recently, Rick and colleague David Chojnacki, are developing the AAIE-sponsored “Leading-Up” project, focused on empowering heads of schools to work effectively with their boards. Finally, Rick and David have just authored the NAIS International Trustees Handbook, 2nd edition, published in January 2019.

Rick is married to his wife of 47 years, Sandi, a retired ESL teacher, and they have three grown children, all educated at international schools. Rick and Sandi live in rural Vermont.

Teresa Arpin
Dr. Arpin is the President of Transformation Systems, working with educational organizations since 1996. She specializes in leadership development, strategic planning, governance and organizational transformation. In her role with Transformation she has helped schools measure the impact of their strategic plans. She has worked with boards of trustees, schools and school districts large and small across the United States, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Her work has also included facilitating strategic planning processes for five international regional education associations which include NESA, CEESA, EARCOS, AISA and AASSA. She has collaborated with the NESA Board for many years in the evolution of a strategic planning approach that is now being modeled in several international schools and other regional associations.

Teresa is the 2013 recipient of NESA's Finis Engleman Award, recognizing ?outstanding dedication and service to schools in the NESA region reflecting the meritorious contributions of a man whose memory will always be special in the annals of NESA." She is also certified by Newfield Network, an international program for the development of ontological coaches. She is an expert in program evaluation and assessment and is proficient in large scale project planning and management.

David Chojnacki
David Chojnacki (pronounced “hoy-NOT-ski”) has had a lifetime of engagement in and leadership of and networking with independent schools around the world. His headships include stints at the International School of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (1981-1984); Karachi American School (1984-1988); The American Embassy School in New Delhi (1988-1992); and Cairo American College (1992-1996).

In 1996, Mr. Chojnacki was appointed Executive Director of NESA, leading the organization to international prominence and serving the member schools in numerous ways, especially providing valued services in networking, professional development, and executive coaching of school leaders, serving for 21 years in that capacity until his retirement in 2017.

Editor of the international version of the NAIS Trustee Handbook, he is currently engaged in school board training and also serves as a senior consultant with Carney Sandoe & Associates.

The virtual board retreat will be a six-hour interactive workshop (with the specific times agreed with the facilitator) and includes follow-up consultation at US$ 2,500 per school.

If your school board is interested in the retreat, contact Rick Detwiler directly to register your participation.

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