Board members realize that the Lord has placed them in their position of responsibility and rely on the Lord to help them carry out their duties well. Board members also recognize that the operational style of the board and the lifestyle of board members provide significant witness to members of the school and congregation family. They recognize that their positive Christian witness contributes to the school’s image and the accomplishment of its mission.
Encouragement and support for the faculty is another key dimension of the school board. Board members should regularly greet the teachers, show interest in their activities, commend them for their accomplishments, and thank them for their faithful service. Board members realize that their administrator has an enormous responsibility, requiring long hours and taxing work, often to the detriment of her/his family. There also are times of great stress for the administrator. Board members are cognizant of this and keep a watchful eye on the demands of the administrator, making provisions for her/his health and well-being.
Commitment to the Mission of the School
Board members know the mission of the school and affirm that mission and the values on which it is based. They are concerned about the souls and lives of students, parents, and staff, and they are willing to do what they can to help. Board members are dedicated to ensuring that the school is strong and effective and will do nothing that will harm the school in carrying out its mission. To that end, they set aside any personal agendas to serve the best interests of the entire school community. If their own children attend the school, they realize that they do not represent their personal interests. Instead, they represent the best interests of all of the students. As the board considers policies, it will ask, “Will this policy be good for the students?”
The mission statement leads the focus of the school, and it expedites consistency for all aspects of the board responsibility. Everything that happens in a school relates to the mission statement. It is imperative that a mission statement is established before any work is done. The mission of the school must be compatible with the mission of the congregation. Review the mission statement annually and revise it as necessary.
Commitment to Work with the Administrator and Other Board Members
School board members realize that the school administrator is the single most important component in an effective program. They work hard to build a strong, trusting relationship with the administrator based on a mutual understanding of the school’s and congregation’s missions. One specific responsibility of the board is to support, care for, and help the personnel serving the church to the end that they might experience joy and achievement. This responsibility is carried out toward the administrator in a direct and intentional way because of the board’s direct relationship with the administrator. The board carries out almost all of its responsibility toward other personnel through the administrator.
School board members realize that they need to serve as a team, working toward common goals. Cooperative helpfulness and respect best describe the spirit and manner in which the board and its members, the administrator, the pastor, and staff work together. Cooperative helpfulness can best happen when all hold a common vision, purpose, and plan for achieving the mission and when all have an understanding of the role and responsibility of each person. This does not mean that they refuse to recognize differences, but that they agree to disagree respectfully. After a thorough discussion of an issue and the establishment of a policy approved by the majority of the board, members support that policy even though they may have voted against it. Board members treat each other and their administrator in a Christian manner, remembering the example of their Savior. They seek always to edify and uphold one another and all the members of the school family.
Commitment to Serve Actively and Faithfully
Board members realize that the center of all board activity and the place where all board decisions are made is the board meeting. Therefore, they attend meetings faithfully. Board members take time to digest the materials for those meetings by reading all materials that have been provided before the meetings so they are prepared to ask questions and discuss the issues.
Board members actively participate in discussions at the meetings and readily volunteer for assignments when needed. They recognize that responsible management and decision-making require gathering adequate information. Board members follow proper procedures for placing items on the agenda.
In order to help them make sound decisions, board members take the time to become well-acquainted with their school by visiting when it is in session and by regularly attending special school activities. Board members also need to acquaint themselves with the policy manual so that they are aware of the policies under which the school and the board operate.
The prime responsibility of a Lutheran school board is adopting the policies under which a school operates. The school administrator is then responsible for creating the procedures for carrying out those policies.
Most Lutheran schools exist within the structure of a congregation. Therefore, the school board must operate within limits set by the governing body of the congregation, and policies are to be consistent and within the limits set by that governing body.
Policies are to be active and dynamic. They are meant to be changed and refined regularly, based on the intent of each section, the values of the board, and the changing context within which our school functions.
Advocates of the School
Board members love their school and the children it serves, and they show it by joyfully investing their time and energy on behalf of the school. They represent their school in a positive manner, focusing on progress, improvement, growth, and accomplishments. This does not suggest that they will hide or ignore negative factors. Problems will be dealt with in confidentiality and, when necessary, with Christian confrontation. They publicly support staff and the programs of the school. Board members set an example by contributing to the school’s annual fund and fund raising activities.
Board members, under the leadership of the administrator, plan for the short term and the long term. They determine what has been done well and what has not been done well. They plan for the future by setting policy to guide the administrator in the administration of the school.
Board members realize that it is important to be proactive rather than reactive. They know that planning will guide future success and help the school and congregation attain their missions.
Board members, under the leadership of the administrator, set goals. In doing so, they determine needs, establish priorities, gather information, prepare goal statements, develop plans and strategies and implement those plans.
Operations Outside of Board Meetings
At the conclusion of each meeting, steps should be taken to assure that policies made by the board are implemented. Assignments should be made and deadlines established. Written minutes of the meeting should clearly describe the decisions of the board and provide for easy reference at a later date. Minutes are to be mailed soon after the meeting so that follow-up assignments can be carried out in accord with the board’s direction and so that preparation for the next meeting can begin. Members who were absent should receive copies of the minutes and all handout materials so they are informed and prepared for the next meeting.
The results of the meeting should be communicated to interested people. Congregation members, parents, students, staff members, and others deserve to know about the decisions and activities of the board. Usually the administrator has the responsibility for communicating board decisions and activities.
Board members will remember that it makes decisions and adopts policies only while the board is in session. At the conclusion of the meeting, individual board members are often expected to report and interpret what the board has done. Board members should do this positively, always refraining from reporting private information or other matters that may be viewed as gossip. Individual members should not make decisions nor take action outside of board meetings. The board and its members function as a decision-making group only when the board is in session in an official meeting.
Sometimes people will bring complaints about some aspect of the program to board members, expecting them to take action concerning their problems. Board members will be good listeners, but knowing that dealing with conflicts and misunderstandings that occur during the course of the school day is basically a staff function; will insist that the person deals directly with the staff member most involved with the situation. While doing so, board members will express confidence in the staff and administrator to resolve such situations satisfactorily.
Role in Public Relations
Every board member is committed to Lutheran schools as an effective agency through which congregations care for young people. When board members are so committed, the board will “speak” through policies and position statements. Month by month decisions will express and demonstrate the board’s commitment to the Lutheran school. To the degree that board members effectively express their commitment, congregation members and parents will catch, hold, and accept that same commitment.
The board should be constantly aware of its responsibility to inform, educate, and encourage congregation members, parents, and students to participate fully and joyfully in the Lutheran school. This is a key responsibility for the board’s spokesperson. The board should at all times be sensitive to criticism and negativism that erode the commitment of people to the school. When criticism and negativism appear, the board needs to respond wisely, kindly, and responsibly.
The board and all members will keep in mind four target groups: 1) families with children enrolled in school, 2) members of the congregation(s) that supports the school 3) families with children who are prospective enrollees, and 4) the community in which the school is located.
While most functions of the board are carried out when the board officially meets, the public relations role is fulfilled in the daily lives and activities of each board member. The commitment and devotion of members become obvious as they send their own children to the Lutheran school and speak in a positive way to other congregation members. In their day-to-day living among members of the congregation and in the community, board members have opportunity to speak joyously and positively about their school and its effective ministry.
Board members need to be aware that because they are members of the board, their words and actions carry tremendous weight with others. By virtue of board membership, they are put in the spotlight, and they need to weigh their words and actions carefully!