Dr Peter Bateman, AISA Executive Director
Even at the best of times, the structures for governance in AISA member schools are varied, transitions are frequent, and trustees often lack experience in the governance role. With the additional restrictions imposed by COVID-19, AISA school Heads and school Boards may have limited access to support mechanisms and professional learning opportunities that would assist their work.
In AISA schools, the infrastructure is often challenging, and the operating environment can be unstable or unclear. Student learning and school effectiveness are at risk when the Board and school leaders change often or lack experience in their roles. Despite the current challenges a school Board may have for meeting together in person, and because of the rapidly changing environment the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, the Board and school Heads must quickly learn to adapt how they plan and work together, developing a relationship based on trust and understanding of their mutually supportive leadership roles – even if this is done remotely.
Good governance is an essential part of school effectiveness, perhaps now more than ever, so AISA is committed to providing support to school leaders in this area. AISA’s Code of Governance addresses the basics, such as roles and responsibilities and fulfilling fiduciary and strategic requirements of school boards. These “Indicators of Good Governance” are divided into seven domain areas:
1. Clear Roles & Responsibilities
A highly effective and engaged board has clarity around roles and responsibilities, aligning its work and performance with organisational values and vision. This requires boards to work both strategically and insightfully in collaboration with the Head of School.
2. Fiduciary Responsibilities
School Boards have a legal responsibility to ensure financial viability for the present and future generations of students of the school, focusing on both the short term and strategic development of the school. The Board also have an ethical responsibility to ensure transparency, avoid conflicts of interest and promote effective communication with the school community.
3. Effective Governance
To ensure effective governance, Boards have a responsibility to sustain membership, participate in professional development, reflect on the Board’s performance and demonstrate behaviours that the school community should aspire to emulate.
4. Boards as Strategists and Visionaries
Establishing and sustaining a strategic direction for the school is a responsibility shared by the Board and HoS.
5. Sustaining the Head of School
A successful, healthy school requires an open, supportive and mutually respectful relationship between the Head of School and the Board.
6. Conducting the Business of the Board
The Board establishes policies, procedures and essential agreements that define the Board’s behaviours and how it conducts its business
7. Board Oversight of School Success
As part of the governance strand of the AISA virtual professional learning programme, we are offering Heads and their Boards opportunities to ‘go virtual’ with their governance learning. Full details of these opportunities are presented elsewhere in this edition of ConneXions. AISA is encouraging our governance learning facilitators (what you might know as ‘board trainers’) to adopt the AISA code of effective governance as a framework and explore how school leaders can use the indicators contained therein with their Trustees.
Consistent with emergent thinking about governance, the AISA indicators also embrace developing Trustees strategic and generative roles. The current work in generative governance is grounded in the work of Richard Chait and his colleagues. The concept of generative governance reframes the role of non-profit boards as collaborators with school leaders in the process of generative thinking. Even at a time when the technical challenges for re-opening school seem overwhelming, the work of school leaders must continue to go beyond solving technical problems. It requires they work through adaptive challenges that are grounded in new thinking and new ways of interpreting situations, and therefore, in new ways of operating. School leaders who see this adaptive work as their domain alone have fewer resources than those who can authentically engage their Trustees in the collaborative process of generative thinking.
This approach to governance also requires that school leaders efficiently and effectively orient Trustees so that they can introduce their boards to a more sophisticated and value-added role. As schools re-open for a new school year, the AISA virtual governance learning programme will support heads to develop Trustees’ understanding of their fiduciary and strategic role, and the use of generative modes of thinking.
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.