(Continued from Yesterday)
5. Substantial Cash Reserves
Does the school have enough money in the bank so that when, not if, that air conditioner goes out, or that bus breaks down, you have enough cash on hand to cover these expenses? Just as in your personal finances, a school has to be prepared for those emergency financial needs. Your school should be able to handle those situations and move on. Your have to decide what that ideal number is--our recommendation is at least 20% of your annual budget in cash reserves.
6. Major Donor Engagement
Some boards have questions as to how active they should be in the fundraising process. The answer: very active! The reason you are on the board is because you have a high degree of influence in the community. The board and the school need you to be an influencer who is able to attract philanthropists, foundations, and businesses who want to support the shared vision of the school. Members can be expected to building connections, cultivating relationships, and asking for donor involvement. How will you measure donor engagement? Be explicit about that expectation and provide accountability and feedback for your board.
7. Competitive Faculty Salaries and 8. Competitive Faculty Benefits
You will have to determine how you measure “competitive.” If you are a private school, you may take the average of public schools around you and come up with an area average. Regardless of what type of school you are, is your goal to be 105% of the area average or 75%? You need to be able to compete aggressively for top talent. You want to be able to provide a great standard of living for your teachers so that money is really off the table.
Structuring faculty salaries with bonuses or other performance compensation typically does not work very well with this group. Ample research is available on this topic, and we encourage you to be very cautious if exploring this option. Daniel Pink’s book Drive provides good information for using pay for motivation. Be very intentional in communicating to teachers your strategy for salaries and how you will continue to make sure your administration is able to attract top talent.Your school and/or district will never be better than the quality of your teachers.
9. Strategic Faculty Development
With a great team of talented teachers, you want to have a strategic process for faculty growth. We've worked with some schools recently who have a phenomenal faculty development plan, where 1-2 years are planned in advance. They are going, "where the puck is going to be, not where it is." Faculty development should focus on where your school is going, with your strategic plan informing this effort. Your goals is to have at least 80% of the teachers in your school achieve the level of top performers. Don't cut the PD budget. Encourage your teachers to become all that they can be, which contributes greatly to the final health indicator.
10. Healthy Faculty Engagement
Does your faculty really feel like they have someone looking out for them? Do they feel fully committed to the school's mission, strategies, and culture? Do they feel that they are supported when it comes to dealing with grades, parents, or other issues? Faculty engagement is the top predictor of student performance. As a board, provide the support your chief administrator can possibly use to build faculty engagement. Engagement is often assessed through survey, but another indicator of engagement is teacher attendance. Teachers who are fully engaged don’t miss class - they’re not taking days off just because they’re available. These classroom leaders are consistently excited about working with their students, and they understand that when they’re gone it has an impact on student learning. Highly engaged teachers very seldom miss class.
Hopefully you are able to use these health indicators as a way to measure the viability of your school. Your board should be very clear on these metrics so they are able to make wise decisions. When you come into the board room and put that trustee hat on, you’re leading a mission. How are you going to accomplish a fantastic mission with this amazing calling of education? There’s nothing more noble than giving students hope and ability to pursue their dreams with a strong education. That’s your ultimate purpose as a board, so be very clear about how your school is positioned moving forward in order to fulfill that role.