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Planning a Meaningful Board Retreat

Consider the following statement when thinking about your next board retreat:

"If my school board would _______ we would be 100% more effective.”

The purpose of asking the board to set apart time for a retreat is to reset. It’s a time where the board is setting aside time to rejuvenate and set clear objectives. You need to make sure you’re pursuing a board retreat plan that will allow you to set goals for the whole organization as well as to collect feedback on existing objectives.

8 Keys For Planning a Meaningful Board Retreat:

1. Purpose and Objectives - It is important to have agreement on the purpose of the retreat, as well as what you want to accomplish with the time together. Strengthening relationships among the board and especially with the chief administrator should be an important objective.

2. Location - Your location should help you accomplish your stated objectives. Having the retreat at a location removed from the school is helpful in order to disconnect from everything else and focus on how the board fulfills its responsibilities effectively.

Board Retreat TN March 2021

3. Group Dynamics - Often there’s an elephant in the room that no one is willing to talk about. It’s important to recognize group dynamics and to plan agenda items that will help you deal with and overcome these issues.

4. Agenda - You should set an agenda that will accomplish your established purpose and objectives.

5. Gift - A Board Retreat gives you the opportunity to give back to your board in recognition of what they give to your organization. You might want to think about a gift for your members that says "we appreciate you." This could be anything from a book to letters from faculty or students. There are a lot of things that can be done that don’t require a lot of money. You want to make sure you're celebrating accomplishments!

6. Active Learning - You have the opportunity to put teaching methods you want to cultivate in the classroom on display at the board retreat in order to get board members involved and behind your educational vision for the school. There should be interaction and problem solving, and even breaking apart for small groups. They should experience what you want to accomplish in your instructional strategy for your school, and you should explain the strategies you’re introducing.

7. Engagement - A high level of engagement from your board is very important. Chief Administrators often struggle with a board that has very low levels of engagement. The board retreat should allow you to build engagement so the board understands what expectations are, and what to do and what not to do. Give them opportunities to be excited about what’s happening in the school!

8. Facilitator - We often recommend not having a board member facilitate, but rather bring in a facilitator and a scribe. They should be two independent people who can respect the confidentiality of the board and can deal with conversations and questions and challenges. 

Those are the most important things to consider when planning a board retreat. Here are a few other items to take into consideration

  • Establish Goals - you should establish board goals as well as individual trustee goals. For example, every trustee should make it a goal to have interaction with the Chief Administrator outside of organizational functions. We also recommend that each trustee sit in on an admissions tour of their school to see what features are being highlighted and what families are interested in.

  • Assess the Board Culture - Assess the different aspects of your board's culture, such as professionalism, preparedness, confidentiality, compassion, etc. Ask yourself, "Where are we and what are we going to do to refine our board culture?" That is a very important agenda item for the retreat. 

  • Establish an Annual Calendar - Much of the school calendar is predictable. The board needs to decide at which events they are going to plug in, and if they are going to use the events as connection events. An important part of fundraising is to identify which events are cultivation events, such as first day of school. As a side note, if you're not having at least half of your board meetings online, you're missing out on an opportunity for a higher level of engagement. Most board members are successful people with a busy schedule, and that allows them greater flexibility to be involved. 

  • Viability Assessment and Strategic Plan Goals - Strategic plans are goals to increase viability. There needs to be accountability to revisit those goals and the board chair needs to be able to hold people to the fire with accountability. It is also important to ask what could prevent you from achieving those goals? What are you afraid of? The board needs to address those questions as a board and also to the Chief Administrator. The Chief Administrator has to be honest and vulnerable with the board to be able to admit risks and fears. This can only happen as a result of an ongoing relationship and dialogue. Those are two key discussion questions to determine if the school is in a good position of moving forward. 


We have a limited number of slots open in Fall 2022 for a leadership or board retreat. Let's talk about the best options for you.

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