Mulgrave’s volunteer Board of Directors has the responsibility of steering and stewarding the long-term direction of our school. It’s a role that all 14 Directors and our two student members take seriously, and they are committed to the practices of good governance to ensure they do so effectively and efficiently.
In a nutshell, good governance is an approach to management that centres on structure and processes, healthy engagement, and common goals. Gopi Chande, our Board’s Vice Chair, explains that “as a non-profit, we are accountable to our members. It’s critical that we have a framework and objective ways to make decisions under the banner of our mission, vision and values to ensure that the Mulgrave School Society can prosper in the long run.”
Our Board has a number of purposeful measures to deliver on that accountability. A dedicated Governance Committee ensure that best practices are monitored and gap assessments done to identify areas for potential improvement. Feedback on the Board is also collected and benchmarked annually through our community survey, administered by the Council of International Schools (CIS). And while many of our Directors have extensive experience serving in similar roles at other non-profits, all are encouraged to undertake professional development specific to the independent school sector to further hone their skills.
“We also work hard to make our meetings as effective as possible,” adds Gopi. “Pre-reads are important; we all commit to coming in prepared and we utilise agendas to keep us on task and operating at a strategic level. As a group, we have a lot of institutional knowledge, which is a great benefit of our stability, as are the processes that have evolved over the years.”
Gopi describes the gated process that the Board uses for capital projects as an example of how the group functions. “We go from the big picture - assessing the educational needs and value add - and hone in on the implementation aspects such as financing options. Most of us are Mulgrave parents, so we have to be very conscious of staying objective and stepping back from our own children’s wants and needs to assess the big picture. Every meeting, we track the outcomes against the plan; these are check-ins though, we’re not making operational decisions and we keep our sights on risks and opportunities. Once the project is complete, we review and discuss what was unexpected and what we might need to anticipate the next time. Even with new Board members coming into roles in the midst of these projects, we maintain momentum as the processes are in place.”
And so, our Board, just like our students and our faculty, set out their goals, practice agility along the way, and reflect on the results, all in an effort of excellence and continuous improvement. That’s good governance.
Characteristics of good governance include:
- Lean, clear, empowering bylaws
- A Board educated about its role
- An active and engaged Board
- Committees that address the key components of the Board's work
- Terms of reference (for committees) and position descriptions (for individuals)
- A vision, mission, and a plan
- Organisational values that are widely communicated and reflected in policies, plans, programs, decisions, actions
- Separation of governance and management roles
- Effective relationships within the Board, and between Board and staff