Trustee Table Takeaways: The Board's Role in Community Engagement

Here are the top five takeaways from Episode 26 of the NAIS Trustee Table podcast, "Building Connections–The Board’s Role in Community Engagement." In this episode, Reveta Bowers, interim head of The Center for Early Education in Los Angeles, shares her insights on how boards can engage with their communities around critical issues facing independent schools, as well as examples of effective board engagement opportunities from her leadership experience.
  • How can boards engage with their communities around critical issues facing independent schools? First, board members need to have at least an annual conversation about how and why they should engage with stakeholders. Once the board is in agreement, then some effective ways include sending out regular, community-wide communications between board meetings, participating in professional development alongside faculty and parents, and serving on community task forces.
  • How can boards communicate effectively with stakeholders without crossing boundaries? It is important to remember there are two leadership arms of the school: the head and the board. The head and the board chair must work in close collaboration to ensure trustees are well-informed and that communication and engagement strategies are coordinated and clearly articulated to all members.
  • Why is it important for trustees to be leaders and storytellers in their communities? As ambassadors in the community, trustees are called upon to interact with stakeholders in a variety of settings. Those interactions become much more compelling when trustees have a personalized story to share, such as why they gave to the capital campaign or why they chose to serve on the board. When trustees take an active leadership role in the school community, it builds stronger connections with stakeholders.
  • What are some practical examples of board engagement opportunities? Virtual options have broadened how trustees can engage with the school and larger community. Some examples include participating in school events, annual and capital campaigns, and alumni association meetings. Schools and boards can also partner with their local higher education institutions or other organizations to design learning workshops that trustees and community members can attend.
  • What are some first steps a head and board chair might take to increase board community engagement? Review the school’s master calendar, determine what events are scheduled, and then try to have at least one trustee attend events such as new parent orientations or admission open houses. Visibility goes a long way in building community connections.