Effective Practices : Governance


The Administrative or Rights Realm
Governance Section 3

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1. The rights realm is the area of agreements, and in a Waldorf school these agreements are often in the domain of the school’s administration. Describe the general areas of responsibility or tasks that the Board of Trustees have delegated to the administrative staff in the school.
2. Has the Board of Trustees retained any administrative functions or responsibilities in the Board? If yes, which functions does it retain responsibility for and why?
3. Describe the administrative structure of the school, and the manner in which individuals are selected for each position.
4. Describe the manner and frequency with which the administrative structure and effectiveness of the school are evaluated. Also note the manner and frequency with which individual administrative staff members are evaluated.
5. Has the Board of Trustees established any limits on the authority of the administrator or administrative staff? Please describe these limitations and the reasons for them.
6. Are there any committees that work in the area of administration or the rights realm? Please list the committees and provide a brief description of their mandates, including who has given the mandate to the committee and what authority and decision making responsibility the committees possess.
7. What is your school’s philosophy with regard to its administrative (rights) realm? What are the guiding lights that inform the way in which the administrative functions are performed?
8. What is working particularly well at your school with regard to its administration?
9. If there were something you could change with regard to your administration, what would it be and why?

GOV 3-1

The rights realm is the area of agreements, and in a Waldorf school these agreements are often in the domain of the school’s administration. Describe the general areas of responsibility or tasks that the Board of Trustees have delegated to the administrative staff in the school.

The rights sphere tasks commonly delegated by the Board of Trustees to the administrative staff of the school typically include:

  • The day to day operations and business affairs of the school,
  • Strategic financial planning,
  • Communications,
  • Risk management (insurance and safety),
  • Human resources (legal compliance) and all hiring and firing (writing employment offers and coordination of employment terminations),
  • Coordination of evaluations for administrative staff and collaboration with the Teacher Evaluation Committee for faculty evaluations,
  • New student enrollment and re-enrollment,
  • Facilities and infrastructure management, and
  • Information technology including the retention of student and employee records.

It is typical for the rights sphere to be headed by an administrative director who manages the administrative staff and coordinates activities for a large number of committees.

One interesting variation on this organizational approach was noted in our study. We found a school with a very strong Republican Academy culture which has a large number of Board committees. These committees work in a very independent fashion, and have a high level of autonomy and the ability to make and implement decisions. In this school very little authority is delegated to the administrator or the administrative staff. Instead, the administrative personnel see themselves as the facilitators or servants of the various Board committees.

Brotherhood activities in a Waldorf school are those that typically report to the Community Development Director. It is increasingly common for the Community Development Director to report to the Board of Trustees as a partner to the Administrative Director. However, some schools still ask the Community Development Director to report to the school administrator. This typically occurs when the community development functions are still in the developmental stage and the office of development is only partially staffed and when a large number of volunteers are active in leading the development activity at the school. These institutional advancement activities include events, publicity and public relations, fundraising and alumni relations. They are discussed in more detail in The Realm of Brotherhood, Governance, Section 4.

GOV 3-2

Has the Board of Trustees retained any administrative functions or responsibilities in the Board? If yes, which functions does it retain responsibility for and why?

Typically the Board of Trustees retains decision making authority in the area of major financial decision making. Examples of these decisions include the approval of tuition levels, the setting of salary structures, approval of the overall budget, certain capital improvements and other large expenditures of a non-recurring nature, the decision to conduct a capital campaign, overall guidelines for tuition assistance, the school investment policy, non-discrimination policy, any benefits that require legal authorization, and large contracts that have institutional implications. In all cases the Board of Trustees will make these decisions in response to recommendations that come to it from a group or committee.

In some schools the human resource (legal compliance) aspect of personnel is retained in the Board rather than delegated to the administrator. In these cases the Board gives the final affirmation of all hiring done in the school, provides direction when someone’s employment is terminated, gives legal counsel and assumes legal responsibility as needed.

GOV 3-3

Describe the administrative structure of the school, and the manner in which individuals are selected for each position.

The administrative area is often more hierarchical in structure than is found elsewhere in the school. The administrative director oversees the business manager, the facilities manager and the registrar. In some schools the administrator also oversees the enrollment director and the community development director. However, it is becoming increasingly common for the community development officer to report to the Board of Trustees in recognition of the different gesture of work done in the brotherhood realm from that done in the rights realm. Similarly, the enrollment director increasingly reports to the Pedagogical Chair. This reporting relationship reflects the understanding that the enrollment work is focused on coordinating and facilitating the meeting between teacher and student. (Note: the contractual aspects of the enrollment process and the retention of student records are typically handled by a school Registrar, and the Registrar reports to the administrative director.)

The personnel reporting directly to the Board of Trustees are usually hired by the Board or a committee of the Board. However, we did find a few schools with very strong Personnel and Hiring Committees in the College of Teachers, and these committees were sometimes charged with the hiring of administrative personnel as well as teaching staff. Senior members of the administrative staff are generally free to make all hiring decisions in their respective areas of responsibility. Hiring for these positions is based on the candidate’s skills in the areas required for success in the job.

It is interesting to note that although the administrative staff tends to be fairly hierarchical in its structure the administrators repeatedly made the point that they operate in a team approach and work actively to create an environment in which all staff members feel as though they are members of a collegial circle rather than in a subservient relationship to their supervisor.

GOV 3-4

Describe the manner and frequency with which the administrative structure and effectiveness of the school are evaluated. Also note the manner and frequency with which individual administrative staff members are evaluated.

The schools in our study did not have a regular process by which the administrative structure of the school was evaluated. They noted however that the accreditation work and the schools’ ongoing strategic planning processes provide regular opportunities to look at any structural problems on the administrative front and to make adjustments as needed. Structural issues are also addressed as a byproduct of the annual performance evaluations for administrative personnel to the extent that structural difficulties interfere with someone’s ability to perform the job.

Schools strive to review each member of the administrative staff on an annual basis. The evaluation of the administrative director and the community development director are usually coordinated by the Board of Trustees, although the evaluation for the community development director may be coordinated by the administrator. We also found cases where the Leadership Team (college chair, pedagogical chair, section chairs and Board chair) coordinated the evaluation for the administrative director. The reviews for these senior personnel typically include input from a fair number of people in the community due to the highly interactive nature of the work done by these senior staff members.

More junior members of the administrative and community development staff are typically reviewed by their direct supervisor.

GOV 3-5

Has the Board of Trustees established any limits on the authority of the administrator or administrative staff? Please describe these limitations and the reasons for them.

The job descriptions and policies set by the Board of Trustees place clear limits on the authority of the administrator and administrative staff. The types of authority retained in the Board of Trustees is described above in question 2, and it is presumed that the administrator has full authority as outlined in the position description or as specifically reserved for the Board. As noted above policies in the financial area are typically approved by the Board. So too are purchases of real estate, the creation of endowments and the securing of loans.

These policies and restrictions on administrative authority are in place to ensure the responsible stewardship of the school. Several schools noted that they attempt to have only those restrictions which are necessary as a safeguard, and attempt to leave the administrator as much freedom to operate in his or her realm as is possible.

GOV 3-6

Are there any committees that work in the area of administration or the rights realm? Please list the committees and provide a brief description of their mandates, including who has given the mandate to the committee and what authority and decision making responsibility the committees possess.

There are a number of committees that operate in the rights or administrative realm in our schools. These committees are frequently lead by the administrative director, but in some schools they are chaired by a member of the Board of Trustees with administrative staff playing a supportive and facilitating role in their performance. These committees include:

  • Finance — creates the budget with input from the College and all committees for Board approval, makes recommendations on the management of large gifts, sets financial polices and ensures they are carried out, oversees the financial auditing process, provides information to the Board for sound financial decision making, oversees collections, creates the annual enrollment agreement, and documents the budgets, mandates, assumptions and goals to make the budget thinking clear to the community
  • Human Resources — this committee manages salaries, benefits, and the legal ramifications of hiring and firing
  • Buildings and Grounds — this committee works with the facilities manager and facilities staff in coordinating the various projects undertaken on the grounds and in the school facilities. It ensures that the committee operates within the operating and capital budgets established for this area of the school’s operation.
  • Tuition Assistance — this committee makes all grants decisions for the school within the established budget restrictions in accordance with the tuition assistance policies established by the Board. It also recommends changes in the tuition assistance policies to the Board of Trustees.

Note: Committees in the area of development, friend and fund raising are covered in The Realm of Brotherhood, Governance, Section 4.

GOV 3-7

What is your school’s philosophy with regard to its administrative (rights) realm? What are the guiding lights that inform the way in which the administrative functions are performed?

There is a real emphasis on collaboration within the administration, even though it is structured in a hierarchical way. Work is approached in a collegial way rather than authoritatively.

The Motto of the Social Ethic is the guiding light for the school. We want to make decisions and agreements that are right for the community and the individuals in that community.

We feel it is important to have an appropriate balance between form and freedom. For many years the scale was tipped in the direction of freedom, and there was a fear of form. This has changed and the school has learned that appropriate form brings a great deal of individual freedom.

The work requires a specific level of expertise, and the work is best done by individuals with that expertise. There is a respect and understanding across the board that the administration has an appropriate sphere of influence and the people in it are allowed to do their work. Similarly, the administration respects those working in the pedagogical realm. This shared respect and understanding allows us to do our jobs, and for people to maximally effective.

The school has a very clear accountability structure. People want to know that their individual rights are being respected. There is no preferential treatment and real fairness. This approach stands as the basis for work in the rights sphere.

People sometimes fear having an administrator because they think they will lose control or power. We have found that the truth is that an administrator can help ensure that the school has the right policies and procedures that are clear to all, and ensure that all are held to the same standard. We see that we must have accountability in order to have fairness, and we ask the administrator to ensure that we are held accountable to the policies set by the Board and the College.

Administrative staff members are full and equal members of the faculty circle. There has been a very strong development in the last ten years where there is genuine appreciation between the faculty and the administration. There is no feeling of us/them. All staff members are welcome to participate in the faulty studies, although they must commit for the year and not just pop in from time to time. The administrative staff is also welcome to sit on the Leadership Circle (this school’s version of a College of Teachers).

The guiding light for the administrative work is service to the school. The administrative staff supports the governing bodies of the school — the faculty and the board.

Transparency and accountability are important in all areas of administrative work.

Communication is a key to successful work in this area. There is an interesting balance between being able to see everything that is happening in the school all along the periphery yet also maintaining a close connection to the center of the school that can only take place when the communication channels are very strong and open.

GOV 3-8

What is working particularly well at your school with regard to its administration?

We are blessed in that our administrative staff members have a genuine desire to be of service. We have an administrator who came to us from outside Waldorf education. She participates actively but keeps an outside, arms length relationship with the faculty that brings helpful clarity and purpose to her work when others may be too close to a situation to see it and work through it clearly.

The Board Chair is in contact with the Faculty Chair on a regular basis. As a result the Board Chair can provide real support to the administrator and context for her work. The communication can also work positively in the other direction, allowing the administrator to suggest a topic be discussed at a board meeting so that support can be given to the faculty. The three work in very close collaboration.

We have clear job descriptions yet also have some flexibility which allows people to work together cooperatively.

The administrator is on the Board and is part of the chair group so she can be an effective interface with all parts of the school.

The faculty appreciates the clarity and process focus that the administrative staff can bring to the work.

The staff is very timely in their work and helps others to be timely as well.

The administrative staff offers dedication combined with pragmatism. These traits and a true equanimity make the staff an important and effective part of the school.

We have clear mandates for each committee and job descriptions that outline authority and responsibility well. There has been very little change in our structure over time so there is broad understanding of what people are allowed and expected to do. As a result the people in a particular function may change but the form holds.

There is clarity as to roles and responsibilities.

The faculty chair and the administrator work very well together. They collaborate well and there is mutual support for each other’s work.

The College has gradually come to understand the function of administration. An institution in the modern world needs to be clear on its expectations in all three realms. There needs to be someone in the middle to do the research and coordinate implementation of things in the rights realm, and the administrator plays a key and supportive role here. We have a very stable staff with great longevity. This means we have a happy administrative staff that is working well.

The administration enjoys a high level of trust from the College, and vice versa.

The Board and College recognize and appreciate what each body brings to the school.

The Board members are highly active in their committee work.

The movement toward administrative collaboration is appreciated. There is freedom and an opportunity for creativity. The people who do the work are the experts, and their perspectives are honored as such.

There is strong collaboration between the faculty and the staff. Given the differences in our structural arrangements and our pay grades there is an opportunity for separation and resentment to occur, but this is falling away as we work together.

GOV 3-9

If there were something you could change with regard to your administration, what would it be and why?

One of our gifts is also one of our challenges. Many of our staff members are not from a Waldorf background, and some of the perspectives that inform the work of our school are not always understood by staff members.

There is high turnover in the administrative staff. Salary is a piece of it. We’re asked to do a lot without all of the resources we need at times, and it’s hard to do this work if you don’t understand the larger anthroposophic picture.

Many of the administrative functions have come from parents who moved into these positions after being volunteers. People leave when their children do which contributes to the high turnover we see in the administrative staff.

The administrative staff feels a bit understaffed, and this can feel overwhelming at times.

I wish there were more opportunities for the teachers to see the work of the staff and for the staff to see the work of the faculty.

Looking into the future 5 or 10 years, the next administrator and development director may require more autonomy than they have today. There needs to be a good collaborative process between these staff members, the Board and the College, but we also need to find ways to ensure effectiveness and to increase the respect for and trust in administrative functions. The administrator is trusted today because of her very long history with the school, but that level of authority is not clearly written into the job description for whoever may come next in that role.

The building of trust in administration is critical for the success of our schools. For example, if an administrator sees that something is not right in the business office it can take a significant effort to convince the Board that serious review is called for. The administrator does not have enough “clout” to initiate action in the personnel arena, and we need to grow more in this area.

We will benefit through our continued experience with understanding the areas where the teachers need to focus and where the administrator needs to focus. As we build this shared imagination we will be better able to trust each other. The school has adjusted well to the addition of an administrator 13 years ago, and yet more adjustments will have to be made in the coming years.

Good trainings are needed to help people succeed in the administrative realm. The teachers don’t have strength here so they are not effective resources, so good outside training is required to help people learn to be successful.

There will have to be more respect for and understanding of the energy and etheric force it takes to do effective administrative work. It is not dirty work; it is ministering. How do we help our administrators feel respected and appreciated for the work they do?

It would be good if our administrative staff had a greater understanding of the threefold social order.


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