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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

School Board Development - Building a Board that Works - Introduction



Most American International Schools around the world have been established and operate with an organizational structure that warrants a viable School Board or Board of Directors (hereinafter called the Board or a Board). Although the selection process of a Board and the number of Board members varies from school to school, the relationship a Board has with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a school (hereinafter called the school head), the faculty, and the community is of crucial importance to the efficient operation of a community-based school.

Given the high staff turnover resulting from the continuing reassignment of diplomatic and commercial personnel, the size and intimacy of the overseas school, and the lack of bureaucratic obstacles to instituting change, overseas schools, more than many organizations, reflect the abilities, standards, and leadership of both the school head and the Board. The Board initially hires the school head; the Board evaluates the school head; the Board establishes school policy; the Board monitors programming; the Board approves annual school goals; the Board makes fiscal decisions and approves the school's budget; and the Board, over time, has the ultimate responsibility to evaluate the effectiveness of the total school program. In terms of delivering a quality educational program to the children and parents in the school community, the ability of a Board to carry out these functions in a coherent fashion is crucial to the total effectiveness of a school.

Despite the tremendous impact that Boards have, most board members assume the position with little or no training. Board members are often members of the diplomatic and commercial community and their lack of school board training is exacerbated by two factors:

         1. Parents are often transient, usually spending two to three years at any assignment and
         2. International Schools have non-American board members who are not familiar with the concept of "local control" or the "community based school".

Thus, many schools do not have formally or informally trained Boards to monitor the programmatic and fiscal operation of the institution.

This following is a training "package" for Overseas School Boards. These training materials include a potpourri of resources, a menu approach in which materials might be selected and administered by local personnel and/or overseas consultants to train Board Members via weekend retreats, short two-hour seminars, or one-day experiences. The scope of the training materials is extensive; they are designed to facilitate role playing activities, conflict resolution, goal setting, team building, policy making, budget formulation and budgeting techniques, and understanding the role of an individual board member versus that of the Board as a whole.

The key to these board training materials is flexibility. Given the varied nature of overseas schools and the enormous differences in school board skills and general operating procedures, the school and/or facilitator must be able to "pick and choose" training materials (in hard copy and electronic form) that suit the needs of the institution.

The instability of School Boards and the lack of formal training that most Boards receive from the school administration and/or from the Boards themselves are systemic problems around the world. Education and training are continuing processes. School Board members, like educators, medical personnel, corporate directors and other decision makers, have a continuing need for annual training. The purpose of these materials is to provide resources for enhancing the effectiveness of school boards and their relationship to the community which they serve.


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