January 2021

Member query:

What role, if any, should the Head of School have in partnership with the Board Chair or Committee on Trustees in the vetting, interviewing or selecting of potential trustees? What is best practices and good governance?


Reply from Cathy Trower:

My opinion is that the Head of School should actively engage with the Board Chair and, ideally, with the Committee on Trustees (or Governance Committee) in board member succession including cultivating, vetting, interviewing, and recommending potential trustees. Voting new trustees is a board decision; some Heads have vote and others do not.

Because the relationship between Head and Board (and all trustees) is so important to the Head’s and school’s success, I think it is essential that the Head get to know potential board members and that they get to know the Head. Importantly, the Head may very well be a great source of ideas about potential trustees and may have ‘insider’ information about a prospective trustee that others may not be privy to especially if the prospective trustee is a current parent, donor, or has some other existing relationship with the school. The Head may know of red flags or other history that could influence whether or not someone should be considered as a Trustee.

The Head’s involvement with the Committee on Trustees or Governance Committee in discussing a matrix of competencies, skillsets, experiences, and backgrounds needed is also important and a good practice.

As long as there is committee oversight of trustee succession, there is no need for concern that a Head would “stack the deck” with their pals – something that used to happen frequently, but I just do not see much anymore. Most schools have gotten quite sophisticated with trustee succession and all for the better.