Managing International School Board Turnover: The Ongoing Need for Robust, Embedded Good Governance in AISA Schools

POSTED: November 16, 2022Category: AISA Articles, NEWBY: AISA P9

The structures for governance in AISA member schools are varied, transitions are frequent, and trustees often lack experience in the governance role – particularly the educational considerations for the governance of an international school. The once-a-year board training model that remains so popular in many of our schools does not provide the scope or depth of training required to embed good governance practices in schools. Nor does it easily accommodate the high turnover of board members (or heads). Knowledge gaps can quickly form when incoming school heads and school board members have limited access to a well-established governance support framework and ongoing governance learning opportunities that would assist them in working through the transition.

In addition, the operating environment for our schools can be unstable or unclear. As a result, student learning and school effectiveness are at risk. In such an environment, the board and school Head must quickly learn to plan and work together, developing a relationship based on trust and understanding of their mutually supportive leadership roles. Together they must develop enduring strategies based on sound governance principles that provide for efficient and effective onboarding of incoming board members throughout the school year. By embedding good governance deep within school culture, Heads and boards can continue to plan and work together throughout these transitions.

One framework available to all our schools is the AISA Code of Governance. This 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 the school’s vision, thus enhancing the effectiveness of their governance function. With a code in place, the issues of continuity that are likely to arise with high levels of turnover can also be somewhat mitigated.

AISA has committed to providing ongoing support to school leaders in this area. AISA’s Governance Learning Programme and Code of Governance address a wide variety of training needs, from the basics, such as roles and responsibilities and fulfilling fiduciary requirements of school boards, to the needs of high-functioning boards who seek to develop a generative approach to governance as learning.

There are seven domain areas covered in the AISA Code of Governance:

  1. Clear Roles & Responsibilities
  2. Fiduciary Responsibilities
  3. Effective Governance
  4. Boards as Strategists and Visionaries
  5. Sustaining the Head of School
  6. Conducting the Business of the Board
  7. Board Oversight of School Success

We invite schools that do not have robust governance frameworks in place to make use of the AISA Code of Governance in several ways:

  • To review your current Code of Governance: Your school may have a Code of Governance and use this AISA code to review your code. You are welcome to include extracts from the AISA Code in your Code, but if you do, please acknowledge the source entirely.
  • To develop a Code of Governance for your school: You may want to establish a Code of Governance to suit your school structure. We encourage you to use the AISA code to guide that process
  • As part of the induction for new board members, including a copy in the board member induction pack
  • As part of ongoing training for board members
  • By regularly discussing one domain area at a board meeting or board retreat
  • As the starting point for governance reviews

The work of school leaders and boards today often goes beyond solving technical problems. It asks them to work through adaptive challenges requiring new ways of thinking and interpreting situations and, therefore, operating. School leaders who see this adaptive work as their domain alone have fewer resources to draw upon than those who can engage their Trustees in the collaborative process of generative thinking.

The high mobility of educators, students, families and board members in international schools in the AISA region and the high number of transitions this creates on our school boards and school leadership also requires us to develop the cultural awareness and competence to manage change effectively. As we continue our work towards making our schools more Diverse, Equitable, Inclusive and Just (DEIJ), thoughtful and long-term strategies need to be developed so that ongoing governance learning becomes standard practice in all our schools.
AISA has developed a suite of Governance Learning opportunities that are aimed at supporting our schools. These are captured below:

For more information, please take a look at the Governance & Leadership section of our website

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