This month our ConneXions newsletter is focussing on Governance and Leadership in our schools. Without a doubt, the role of our leadership teams and school Boards has taken on a new dimension during the pandemic. Most of our schools have had to make fundamental changes to the delivery of education as schools weigh up the continuing educational needs of students (and faculty) alongside the imperative to ensure the wellbeing and health of the entire school community.
Few schools have been able to fly in ‘Board Trainers’ as they normally do towards the start of the school year. AISA has therefore partnered with International School Board Training to provide our schools with access to the Board Essentials series. This online series is designed with school boards in mind, allowing convenient access to the entire board so that everyone is working from a common ground. No Covid-19 restrictions on travel or gatherings or trouble agreeing on a common meeting time, just easy access, straight-talking insights to help your board transform into a more effective team. For our small schools, AISA was able to cover the costs of this programme.
The structures for governance in AISA member schools are varied, transitions are frequent and trustees often lack experience in the governance role. AISA school heads and school Boards may have limited access to support mechanisms and professional learning opportunities that would assist their work. Often the infrastructure is challenging, and the operating environment can be unstable or unclear. As a result, student learning and school effectiveness are at risk. In such an environment, the Board and school Heads must quickly learn to plan and work together, developing a relationship based on trust and understanding of their mutually supportive leadership roles.
A code of Governance clearly sets out a framework for how school Heads and Boards can plan and work together. A code clearly defines roles and responsibilities and provides a roadmap that they can use to set the strategic direction for their school and monitor progress against that vision, thus enhancing the effectiveness of their governance function.
For this reason, we developed the AISA Code of Governance.
AISA’s Code of Governance addresses the basics, such as roles and responsibilities and fulfilling fiduciary requirements of school boards. These indicators are divided into seven domain areas:
Head of School: in some schools, this person is called the Director, Headmaster, Superintendent or
even Principal. It is the one person hired by the Board (or owner) to manage and lead the school. In a very small school, this person may have a teaching role. In a larger school, this person will be supported by a team of principals, a business manager and other administrators.
Board: this is the body of people that is responsible to the school community for holding the Head of School accountable, overseeing the financial decision making, and setting the vision and mission of the school. In some schools, this could be an owner or owners. It could be a for-profit educational investment firm or a non-profit NGO. In many schools in Africa, it is a group of elected and appointed parents. The term ‘Board’ also refers to and encompasses the school council or governing body or trustees.
The work of school leaders today often goes beyond solving technical problems. It requires they work through adaptive challenges that require new thinking and new ways of interpreting situations, and therefore, operating.
School leaders who see this adaptive work as their domain alone have fewer resources than those who are able to engage their Trustees in the collaborative process of generative thinking.
A primary function of the AISA Code of Governance is to support this approach to governance so that school leaders efficiently and effectively orient Trustees to their fiduciary roles so that they can introduce their boards to a more sophisticated and value-added role.
AISA also continues to provide Leadership and Governance learning opportunities for our heads of school. Be sure to keep an eye on the AISA Learning Events webpage on the AISA website and feel free to browse the extensive range of Governance and Leadership Resources available on our website. Finally, many AISA heads continue to take advantage of the bi-monthy Zoom calls we have set up on the first and third Monday of each month that schools are in session. I send out invitations to heads to allow them to access these whenever they are scheduled to occur. [AISA now offers a whole range of opportunities for those in leadership positions to connect with each other. These include our online Communities of Practice where vibrant discussion threads can be accessed by AISA members. These discussion threads also contain information about upcoming Zoom meetings with colleagues in the same role at other AISA schools and any PD opportunities that target the group’s professional learning needs.
If you have specific Governance and Leadership needs, I encourage you to continue to reach out to me so AISA can assist in addressing these.
Dr Peter Bateman
AISA Executive Director
The Association of International Schools in Africa is dedicated to serving its members throughout Africa during this challenging time. Please let us know if you require additional or specific information, resources and or support, and we will endeavour to assist you as soon as possible.