Effective Practices : Governance
Governance Section 5
1. The ongoing operations of a Waldorf school require a coordination of efforts between those involved in the various spheres of activity (pedagogy, development/brotherhood, and rights/administration). Which person or body is responsible for coordinating the work between these three spheres (e.g. administrative committee, school director, or a joint effort between the College and Board of Trustees?)
2. If your school uses an administrative committee to coordinate its various activities describe how the committee is staffed and its decision making authority and responsibility. If operational coordination is not handled by an administrative committee, describe how this effort is managed at your school.
3. How is the effectiveness of your school’s operational coordination evaluated, and with what frequency are these evaluations conducted?
4. What is your school’s philosophy with regard to the operational coordination of the school? What are the guiding lights that inform the way in which the management of ongoing operations is handled?
5. What is working particularly well in your school with regard to the operational coordination of your school?
6. If there were something you could change with regard to the way in which operational coordination is handled, what would it be and why?
The ongoing operations of a Waldorf school require a coordination of efforts between those involved in the various spheres of activity (pedagogy, development/brotherhood, and rights/administration). Which person or body is responsible for coordinating the work between these three spheres (e.g. administrative committee, school director, or a joint effort between the College and Board of Trustees?)
All of the schools in our study use some sort of operating committee to coordinate efforts between those involved in the various spheres of activity at the school. Although the names that schools use for these committees varies, the most typical form is one that includes the administrator, the director of development, and one or more members of the teaching staff — often the College and/or pedagogical chair, and the sections chairs (Lower School, Early Childhood, and High School).
Some schools also have an Executive Committee which includes the Board Chair, The College Chair and the Administrative Director. Where an Executive Committee exists it is primarily a communication and facilitation organ rather than an operating body of the school.
If your school uses an administrative committee to coordinate its various activities describe how the committee is staffed and its decision making authority and responsibility. If operational coordination is not handled by an administrative committee, describe how this effort is managed at your school.
The administrative committee is found in each of the schools in our study. Members of the group are there by virtue of their office. The responsibilities of this group often include the setting of agendas for the various meetings (College, administrative, section meetings, and general faculty meeting). The group may also be involved in screening or working through some agenda items before they come to a larger group, ensuring that the item is properly prepared and that adequate documentation is available for the item prior to the meeting. The group anticipates the rhythm of the year and ensures that the governing bodies are doing what is needed to prepare for those key events in the school’s life. The administrative committee may also make the determination as to which organ of the school an issue should be referred. The group may also handle “forest fire” situations — emergency threats that come to the school that require immediate action. Minor operating issues are also addressed by this group so that the College and/or general faculty are not burdened with smaller issues. These minor issues might include facilitating requests for extra-curricular offerings, recommending the school calendar, manage the travel and honoraria budget lines, review and facilitate parent communication, communicate with parent groups as needed, and mediate with parents and teachers as needed.
It is Important to note that despite the high level of personal authority given to each of the members of the administrative committee in their various realms and to the group as a whole, some fundamental issues are only decided by the Board or the College. These include hiring, firing, changes to curriculum fundamentals, tuition increases, and capital improvements.
Several of the schools mentioned that it is the responsibility of the Administrative Director to chair this administrative committee, setting its meeting agenda and driving its business. The administrative director also is often asked to provide the staff support needed to complete the work of the group.
These administrative committees meet at least once a week, and several schools noted that their administrative committee meets two or three times per week.
How is the effectiveness of your school’s operational coordination evaluated, and with what frequency are these evaluations conducted?
The administrative committee often writes a self evaluation each year and shares it with the College of Teachers and the Board. Comments and feedback are requested. In addition schools find that weekly reporting of the group’s activities helps to keep the group’s work up to standard. It is helpful to the group to receive feedback in an ongoing way so that changes can be made easily over time rather than in large jumps at year end. While frequent turnover in the group is not helpful, having some turnover from year to year does help to keep a high level of consciousness regarding the quality and appropriateness of the committee’s work.
What is your school’s philosophy with regard to the operational coordination of the school? What are the guiding lights that inform the way in which the management of ongoing operations is handled?
Servant leadership is the watchword with regard to the way in which the Administrative Circle operates. People have been given a leadership role, but they exercise that authority in a way that makes service to the group a key.
Collaboration is another key principle in the work of the Administrative Committee. The members of the group recognize that the group’s achievements are seldom the result of the work or opinions of just one person.
The administrative committee is the core piece of our governance model. It is the place where all the pieces of the school come together and ensures that the efforts in all of those bodies are serving the same vision of the school.
Any time that we separate responsibilities we need to have a level of trust in each other. The workings of the administrative committee are dependent on this trust.
Our work on the administrative committee (and all committees at the school) is informed by our commitment to consensus leadership and the use of the mandate system. All major decisions are made through consensus.
The ideal of republican academies lives in a strong way at the school. In it authority is moved out to a number of small groups, with only the final approval of major decisions being done at the Board and College level. The purpose of the administrative committee is to serve that ideal, which the group does by deciding where various issues should be delegated for needed work.
The operational coordination of work at the school is seen as a service. There is a recognition that unless the various spheres know what each is doing the school cannot operate effectively. The administrative committee is happy to be of service to ensure that the people in the various spheres are spending their time fruitfully. The committee works to ensure that issues are well coordinated without overlap and duplication of effort.
The College is very grateful for the operational coordination done by the administrative committee, as this allows it to do its work without having energy dissipated in the operational detail. As a result spiritual research, child study, and curricular issues can all be attended to as the business of implementation is minimized.
The individuals who sit on the administrative committee have complementary skills, and their process is very open. This strong assortment of skills and forthright action has allowed a high level of trust to be developed among faculty members and in the work of the administrative committee.
All members of the administrative committee are working out of Anthroposophy and are deeply committed to the school. Individuals who are interested in serving on this committee so as to advance a personal agenda or who do not understand the spiritual basis of our work are not candidates for these positions. The school wants leaders who are able to put the interests of the school ahead of their own.
What is working particularly well in your school with regard to the operational coordination of your school?
The administrative committee uses a very conscious process of delegation when issues are assigned to one or another mandate group. They always look first to see where an issue can be delegated rather than assuming that is must be held within their committee.
The fact that there are six members of the administrative committee in addition to the administrator means that over time a large number of people will have served in this capacity and that the consciousness of what it takes to run the school has been raised to a high level. It is good that the administrator’s presence on the committee remains a constant but that there is also broad participation over time by other College and faculty members.
The fact that the administrative committee meets regularly really helps. They plan well in advance, creating calendars for the whole year and meeting agendas for the College, Board and sections well in advance of those meetings.
There is mutual respect between the governing bodies and the various committees at the school. We are clear in most cases about where an issue should be referred. In rare cases where it isn’t clear which group should be assigned a particular task we err on the side of assigning an issue jointly to two groups.
The striving that everyone is putting into following our governance model is quite remarkable. We have a clear picture to follow and guiding principles that inform our work.
The people who serve on the administrative committee possess the skills and qualifications to do the work. There is an understanding and appreciation of what it takes to do this work, and people are selected for these positions based on their qualifications, not on likes and dislikes.
If there were something you could change with regard to the way in which operational coordination is handled, what would it be and why?
It is sometimes frustrating to go through the collaborative process when one can see where something is going, but this is the nature of our process. No real changes are needed, only the patience to allow something to work its way through to its conclusion.
We don’t always follow our model, and we quickly get into trouble when this happens. There are difficulties when one group wanders into another’s area of responsibility and decision making, even when those efforts are well intended.
Cultivating new leadership is an ongoing issue. We have a number of long time College and Board members, but we don’t seem to engage new and younger members of the community in positions of leadership as well or as often as we would like.
It is our process to present an issue in one meeting and decide on the matter in the next meeting. Some people feel that this approach takes too long. We recognize however that it may not be as expeditious in the short run, but the long term effectiveness of matters taken up in this way provide significant benefits for the school.
Our problems are not with the form of the leadership team or its practices, but occur at times in the execution. For example we don’t do well when a member is missing from an administrative committee meeting. It is the human factor, not the form, which is our challenge.
We need to tighten up on the agreements that are made. We don’t always hold people accountable for their agreements, and this can cause us difficulty.
It is important that the people who are assigned to the committee are interested in and have the capacity to do this operational coordination. We must always be careful to have the right people so the committee is at its strongest. Not everyone is interested in or has the skill set for this kind of work.
It would be great if new teachers who come to the school came with some understanding of what it takes to run a school. The hierarchical gesture in the classroom is quite different than that of the circle of colleagues that works elsewhere in the school, and often new teachers lack an understanding of this key difference.
We should review the work of this group twice a year, rather than just annually.
We do make adjustments from time to time in our processes and policies. It would be good if, in addition to noting in our minutes that a decision has been made, we also noted some of the key considerations that led us to make the change. In this way we build an institutional memory that can last longer than the individual members of the administrative committee.