March 2019

Member query:

Given that Boards have an important role in assuring a healthy school culture, is there an appropriate role for Boards to play in creating and/or viewing the results of exit interviews of departing faculty and staff? What process do you recommend? Imagine the scenario where there was a significant increase in faculty turnover, more than in years past, and the Board wants to better understand if the school’s work environment contributed to that in any way.


Reply from Cathy Trower:

This is a tough one but, in general, my view is that faculty / staff turnover is largely a Head of School/staff matter. The Board should ask the Head’s candid assessment of the turnover situation and might reasonably ask a set of questions** of the Head about his/her views about the increased turnover. I would be hesitant to have the Board diving into exit interviews of faculty and staff. If the Head seems reluctant to discuss this matter with the Board, you may have a different situation on your hands and Board leadership (Board Chair and officers or Executive Committee) might need to meet privately with the Head to discuss what’s behind his/her reluctance to discuss the matter and then determine whether that’s justifiable or defensive.

** What do you think most accounts for the increase in turnover of faculty / staff? What is your candid assessment of the turnover situation? How worried are you about this turnover? Why?

Was this turnover predictable and/or desirable? (In other words, were there a lot of faculty at retirement age?) What are the demographics of those leaving (e.g., are we losing more women or men? Younger or older personnel? Persons of color?)

How is turnover affecting students? Morale? Workload of remaining faculty?

How do you think about the faculty workplace? What most matters to faculty?

Importantly, and embedded in your question is a bigger and higher-level question that the Board should be engaged in and that is, “How do we think about and measure the environment and culture of the workplace (for faculty and staff)?”