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Making Principled Decisions NAIS Case Studies for School Leaders and Boards of Trustees Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org www.nais.org
Myers-Briggs Z+2 ModelI/E (introvert/extrovert); S/N (sensing/intuition); T/F (thinking/feeling); J/P (judging/perceiving)Adapted from The Zig-Zag ™ Process for Problem Solving, developed by Gordon D. Lawrence, Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc., 2004. S (Sensing): What problem are we trying to solve? What are the facts, details, frequency? Z N (iNtuition): What are the patterns and theories for why this might be happening? How do we brainstorm solutions? How do you process info? T (Thinking): What are the criteria by which we should make this decision? What is the logical way to address the problem? The ethical dimensions? F (Feeling): What is the impact on people? How can we deliver this info in the best way to get results? How do you make decisions?
NAIS Case Study/Crisis Protocols What System Do We Employ To Make Effective Decisions? For routine conundrums and issues: • Investigate and gather the facts. One person’s impassioned “report” does not necessarily constitute an emergency or crisis, especially if the “facts” are distorted by that person’s emotions or biases. Before taking any action, gather the data. Determine if any of the NAIS “Principles of Good Practice” come into play: i.e., are there ethical issues at stake? Are we possibly compromising any principles? • Pay attention to the instinctive “blink” reactions, since many others will have those same reactions. Assemble the administrative team to relay the facts and seek the “wisdom of the crowd.”
NAIS Case Study/Crisis Protocols For routine conundrums and issues: • Rationally determine the options you have. Recognize that conundrums often present what the Institute for Global Ethics (www.globalethics.org) calls “right vs. right” decisions that are resolved only by having and articulating the ethical principles on which you make judgments (e.g., “universal principles,” vs. “greatest good” vs. “caring” ethic). Apply the IGE “four-way test”: gut test; legal test; front-page test; role model test. • Consider the “downstream” impact of the possible decision, and how it will read and play out in the community. Test the water, if possible, with some key constituents.
NAIS Case Study/Crisis Protocols For “crises” with public relations meltdown implications, take these additional steps: • Contact your school's legal counsel and your school’s professional communications counsel,if the situation has an external, public and legal dimension (i.e. may be reported in the press, may result in litigation), since the advice from both the legal and communications perspectives is critical (and sometimes conflicting). Also contact NAIS for its professional legal and communications counsel: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org . • Alert the board chair of the brouhaha, noting the plan of action and possible outcomes and indicate that the head may ask for the Exec Committee or board to assemble to get advance notice of the facts and to share how the administration intends to address the crisis, seeking board confirmation and support or, absent that, suggestions for alternate plans.
NAIS Case Study/Crisis Protocols For “crises” with public relations meltdown implications, take these additional steps: • Contract with professional communications counsel to craft a letter to the community. (NAIS has a professional on retainer to help our schools in such situations.) • Declare a single point person and spokesperson for the school (typically the head of school, division head, or communications director). • Call in any chits: with your friends, your supporters, and your God.
NAIS Case Study/Crisis Protocols Learn from the event: When the dust settles, debrief the crisis and the school's response, with the admin team first, then with the board, if appropriate. • Ask what worked and what didn't, and how the situation may be improved should it happen again. • Think about what systemic, long-term solutions may be put in place as a result of the lessons learned. • Determine what strategic and generative conversations within the admin team or with the board might be productive.
NAIS Case Study/Crisis Protocols To prepare before a crisis occurs: • One of the best methods of training leadership (in this case, the leadership team and the board of an independent school) is the case study approach. • NAIS has on its website (search for “case study”) scores of “real” crises that have occurred in our schools. We recommend routinely introducing a case study at the admin team meeting or at the board meeting, to “practice in advance” appropriate responses were something like these cases to happen at your school. • NAIS might add that some if not all of these case studies are likely to happen at one’s school, sooner or later.
NAIS Film Vignettes Download from: http://www.blueskybroadcast.com/Client/NAIS/Case/case.html • NAIS Case Study #1: Harsh Transitions in the Second Grade • (NAIS’s Take on the Issues) • NAIS Case Study #2: Shock and Scandal • (NAIS’s Take on the Issues) • NAIS Case Study #5: Clash of Styles of Leaders • (NAIS’s Take on the Issues) • NAIS Case Study #9: Administrative Evaluations • (NAIS’s Take on the Issues) • NAIS Case Study #11: Digging Deeper for the Campaign • (NAIS’s Take on the Issues) • NAIS Case Study #13: Taking Charge…by a Trustee • (NAIS’s Take on the Issues)
NAIS Case Study Film Vignettes Download from: http://www.blueskybroadcast.com/Client/NAIS/Case/case.html • NAIS Case Study #15: Marriage of a Student • (NAIS’s Take on the Issues) • NAIS Case Study #28: Peanuts Allergy • (NAIS’s Take on the Issues) • NAIS Case Study #29: Anonymous Letter from the Faculty • (NAIS’s Take on the Issues) • NAIS Case Study #30: Breaking the Rules…by the Adults • (NAIS’s Take on the Issues) • NAIS Case Study #31: Admissions Package Deal • (NAIS’s Take on the Issues)
NAIS Tools for Schools: “Teaming” at NAIS Summer Institutes Read more and register at www.nais.org
Appendix: Related Slides: NAIS’s “Take” on the Case Studies www.nais.org
Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake: Case #1: The Case of “Harsh Transitions” • Should the board be involved in faculty-parent issues? • What processes help schools manage parent complaints? • What role should parents and students play in evaluating faculty? The board or its Education Committee? • What’s a head or other administrator’s “best response” when faculty or board members complain about the effectiveness of a teacher?
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #1: The Case of “Harsh Transitions” • The board should not make judgments or assess the content of the parents’ complaints, but ask that the head report back on how the administration will handle the issue. • The board chair should respond on behalf of the board and should inform parents that the head is the appropriate person to address their concerns. The board’s response should focus on “complaint” protocols and the appropriate role of the board and the head. • As a courtesy the board chair and head of school should inform Wilson, the faculty member’s husband who is also a trustee, about the situation, and Wilson should recuse himself from any conversation on this topic.
Managing Parents: The Case of “Harsh Transitions” NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake • The head and other school administrators should work to educate parents about their appropriate roles and responsibilities via written documents formally outlining the role of the parents association and a formal written process for parents’ complaints. See sample “Parents Covenant” documents on the NAIS website. • The head and other school administrators should inform parents and the board about the schools’ teacher evaluation process and checks and balances that the school has in place, including evidence in this case that the students of the teacher in question do just fine in and are well-prepared for the next level of work in the school. • Wendy Mogel’s The Blessings of a Skinned Knee should be required reading by the Parents Association. Return
Case #2: The Case of Shock and Scandal Leadership Issues in Play & Ethical Practices at Stake: • How does an administrator “defuse” a hostile situation and assuage an angry constituent? • Should the head of school defend the faculty member? • In situations where sexual impropriety is claimed, what legal obligations does a school have to report the allegations to the state? • What “preventative” measures does the school have in place, such as sexual harassment policies and training for the staff, criminal and sexual predator background checking on current and new employees, etc.? • How does a head deal with “threats” from a parent?
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #2: The Case of Shock and Scandal • In angry encounters, defuse by remaining calm, by objectifying the anger, and by reassuring the parent: “Whatever happened I can see has made you very angry, so please know I will get to the bottom of this once all the facts are known and that we’ll find a way to fix what needs fixing for you and your child.” • The head of school must remain neutral regarding defending the faculty member, but can register surprise: “Of course we’ll investigate immediately, but I’m shocked and surprised to hear this since we’ve never had any other similar reports.” • Given child safety to be the paramount ethical issue, the head of school must attend to the child’s well-being. “What can we do to help your child now?” • The head must adhere to the state’s legal requirements regarding reporting child abuse allegations. The principle of “open communications” with parents should begin now, with this parent and with all others “as word gets out.”
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #2: The Case of Shock and Scandal • At the same time, the head must treat the faculty member fairly and equitably: If the state’s process permits it, the head, with at least one other administrator present, should initiate a conversation with the teacher as part of the “fact-gathering” process. • The head should contact the school’s legal counsel and board chair immediately and should follow legal counsel’s advice. • At the same time and especially since the parent is going to the media, the head must also call the PR Director, the Crisis Response Team, and NAIS’s media counsel. One spokesperson should represent the school. For the sake of the child’s well-being and the school’s, the head should try to steer the parent away from the media but should be prepared for the worst in terms of media interest. Return
Case #5: The Case of the Clash of Styles Leadership Issues in Play & Ethical Practices at Stake: • How are the head and board communicating their new strategic priorities to the faculty and to other constituencies? • How is the head building support within the faculty? • Who is meeting the psychological and emotional needs of the faculty? • How is the board evaluating the head of school? • How is the board handling “boundary-crossings” from faculty friendly with individual board members?
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #5: The Case of the Clash of Styles • Managing and communicating well with faculty is an essential skill for a head of school. The head of school must work to engage the faculty and other constituents to support his or her leadership style, mission, and strategic priorities. Regular, frequent communications about the state of the school and progress made can help to answer faculty questions and squelch rumors. • Boards cannot be so focused on numbers and finances that other aspects of the head’s performance aren’t being evaluated. An annual evaluation of the head (and the board) is an NAIS principle of good practice. (NAIS has model evaluation instruments online for heads and boards.)
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #5: The Case of the Clash of Styles • The board should work proactively with the head to cultivate good relations with the faculty and other school constituents. Periodic surveying of the community (board, parents, students, faculty and staff) in terms of morale and attitudes towards the school’s programs and leadership are standard best practice. (NAIS has an online customer satisfaction survey available to schools.) The head and admin team should see any negative results as an important problem to solve. Executive coaching is another tool to be considered for the head and other administrators, as needed. (NAIS has a recommended list of mentor/coaches: email email@example.com) • The board’s communications with the head and school constituency groups should seek to defuse a volatile situation: With the faculty, individual board members should react to any “gossip” from faculty with an agenda by firmly re-directly issues to the proper “complaint department”: i.e., the head of school. Return
Case #9: The Case of the Administrative Evaluations Leadership Issues in Play & Ethical Practices at Stake: • Should a head of school share faculty and administrative evaluations with a board chair? • Should a board chair ask a head of school to share individual staff evaluations with the entire board? • How does a head handle a potential breakdown in the governance/management balance, especially “on the fly” when it’s happening during a board meeting—and potential embarrassment and breakdown in the decorum of the meeting is one outcome of a challenge? • How many “open conflicts” with one’s board chair is possible before a head will have to “dust off the resume” or pull out the “resignation letter” arrow?
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #9: The Case of the Administrative Evaluations • Sharing individual faculty and administrative evaluations with trustees is inappropriate. The head should not give the evaluations to the board chair, and the board chair should not request them. • The board chair and head of school should plan board meetings in advance so there are no surprises during meetings. Working together to develop an agenda and discussing what materials and information will be shared during the meetings helps board chairs and heads run more effective meetings and improve their communications. In this case, the head’s general “reporting out” on the outcomes of the assessment would be appropriate, with an indication, without naming names, of steps being taken for any with problematic evaluations.
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #9: The Case of the Admin Evals • Best practice dictates that generally, the board and its members should stay focused on the boards’ long-range and strategic work and should not get involved in management and personnel issues. The head of school is responsible for faculty evaluations and personnel management. “Realpolitic” dictates, however, that heads communicate to the board, in executive session, personnel issues that are difficult—indicating a plan of action to address them. • Boards expect heads to adhere to the Good to Great concept of getting the right people on the bus, in the right seats on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus. Faculty fear the head will do just that in an uncaring, capricious and subjective “corporate” way that doesn’t recognize the sacrifice and contributions even “eccentric” or “difficult” faculty make. Heads must balance the cost to institution and students for keeping on those who should go; boards should fund generous “severance” packages for long-serving staff whose time has come “to leave the family.” Return
Case #11: The Case of Digging Deeper Leadership Issues in Play & Ethical Practices at Stake: • Should the school embark on a capital campaign while its mission is in transition? • If the school’s mission changes and a trustee cannot support the change, should he or she resign? • How much cultivation of major donors should occur before “the ask”?
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #11: The Case of Digging Deeper • Before a new mission is put into place, a school should conduct a feasibility study to learn how the new mission will impact the school, its operations, and community, including the impact on fund-raising. • If a school’s mission changes and a trustee cannot support the new mission enthusiastically, the trustee should resign.
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #11: The Case of Digging Deeper • A school must consider “timing” as it embarks on a major fundraising campaign while its mission is in transition. When a school’s mission changes, the school’s first priority should be to communicate the new mission to all constituencies and to build support and acceptance for the new mission. This “communications” campaign can be designed as the first stage in the future capital campaign, communicating ongoing commitment to excellence and delivery of value to students. • Since 90% of fund-raising dollars comes from 10% of the constituency, those 10% should be carefully cultivated each year: It takes three to five years of “friend-raising” in most cases before serious “fund-raising” occurs. Since this cultivation should be on-going, it may not require postponing a capital campaign, unless one’s feasibility study indicates otherwise: i.e., Cultivation hasn’t been happening, or significant players in the 10% are upset with the school for one reason (mission change) or another. Return
Case #13: The Case of the Eager Beaver New Trustee Leadership Issues in Play & Ethical Practices at Stake: • Is it ever appropriate for an individual trustee to go on his or her own exploratory investigations? To give orders to staff? • What about the “reporting path” for business managers, admissions directors, and development directors, who frequently have board committees that they staff and provide information for committee chairs who in the course of their work sometimes need and request detailed reports? • When there is a “breakdown” of the governance/management boundary by a new or aggressive trustee, how can the damage be repaired and prevented from happening again?
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #13: The Case of the Eager Beaver New Trustee • Trustees who work alone instead of as members of their boards can undermine the work of their boards and their heads of school. Generally, individual trustees and boards should not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the school and should keep their focus and work on the strategic bigger picture. • Boards should have a process in place to gather the information it needs to make strategic decisions. Generally, the head delegates report generation to the appropriate key administrators, but sees, edits as necessary, and approves the report before the administrator delivers it to the board. Thus, the reporting path to the committee chair is through the head of school. • The admissions director and business manager and development director must maintain the confidentiality of individual and institutional records and should inform the head if the security of these records is threatened.
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #13: The Case of the Eager Beaver New Trustee • To prevent bad behaviors from “rogue” trustees, the Committee on Trustees should conduct adequate board orientation and training, including intensive “onboarding” to the culture and governance vs. management boundaries of independent school decision-making. Frequently, there should be board-training for the whole board, using NAIS case studies like this one. Annually, board members should sign, along with their “conflict of interest” document, a “board contract” stipulating expectations of board members. (Samples available on the NAIS website.) • Generally, the “correction of course” for a boundary-breaking trustee simply requires a conversation from the board chair. If that fails, then the board chair, Committee on Trustees chair, and a board colleague/friend need to go on a “walk in the woods” with the misbehaving board member. If that fails, boards should have and use the trustee removal clause in their bylaws. Return
Case #15: The Case When Head and Counsel Disagree Leadership Issues in Play & Ethical Practices at Stake: • Since every exigency adolescents can imagine are not covered in one’s handbook, what global expectations of conduct and character do you put in place? • Where is the line between school and parental responsibility for the conduct of a student? • Where, if any place, is the geographic boundary of the reach of school jurisdiction? • Does making an exception for one student on one rule set a precedent for making other exceptions? • Should you follow your school’s principles or your attorney’s legal advice?
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #15: The Case When Head and Counsel Disagree • A student handbook that outlines rules and formal processes can help schools manage situations where students break school rules or fail to meeting general expectations. • The handbook should be reviewed by the school’s attorney before an incident takes place. It should include a stipulation that conduct on or off campus that is illegal or considered immoral by the school subjects a student to disciplinary action, including dismissal. • The head and other school administrators should work to educate parents and about the school’s philosophy and practices during the admissions process. Ditto for the students.
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #15: The Case When Head and Counsel Disagree • On occasion legal counsel and PR counsel are at odds in their recommendation, the former focused on not losing the battle of legal exposure and risk and the latter focused on not losing the battle of public opinion. In such dilemmas, NAIS recommends using the Institute for Global Ethics 4-way “test”: i. the instinctive “gut” response test; ii. The New York Times front page test; iii. the legal test; iv. the role model test. Return
Case #28: The Case of Governance Ain’t Peanuts Leadership Issues in Play & Ethical Practices at Stake: • How does a school introduce controversial new policies that some in the parent body will object to? • How does the school deal with parent petitions, legitimate or otherwise? • Does a “palace revolt” by a contingency of parents constitute a board-level conversation? • Should the board be directly involved in managing students’ peanut allergies? • What health and safety principles are involved? • Is a school obligated to accommodate the special needs of a few when it constitutes an unpopular change in behaviors or habits for the many?
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #28: The Case of Governance Ain’t Peanuts • As a courtesy, the head should inform the board chair about the parents’ communications regarding peanuts and peanut allergies. • The board does not need to take direct action but should have a risk management team in place to ensure that the school is not at risk and does what it can to keep students out of harm’s way. • The head should work with the Parents Association officers to line up support for the policy and to address appropriate channels and means for parental objections. • The head should increase her communications with parents: • to improve their understanding of peanut allergies • to use the incident as a “teachable moment” regarding how parents can communicate appropriately with the school. Return
Case #29: The Case of the Anonymous Letter Leadership Issues in Play & Ethical Practices at Stake: • How does a school head, particularly a new one, prepare the faculty and staff for necessary change and gain buy-in for it? • Is it ever professional for a faculty, formally or informally, to express displeasure about a head to the board? If not, how does the faculty express dissent? If so, by what appropriate means does faculty opinion get shared? • What’s the board’s response to an anonymous letter to the board? • Should the board help the head of school manage a faculty revolt? How can it support the head?
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #29: The Case of the Anonymous Letter • The board should be supportive of the head of school, but the head should manage faculty issues. The head should keep communications open with the board and inform the board of actions he will take to address the situation. The board chair should communicate to the faculty through a letter the head reads to the faculty the fact of receipt of an anonymous letter, the board’s practice not to respond to anonymous letters publicly, and its policy to re-direct faculty dissent to appropriate channels, the administration of the school. • The head also needs to maintain open communication with the faculty and should encourage different methods and forms of feedback. He or she should acknowledge the rough spots that occur whenever change is implemented but condemn as unprofessional communications via anonymous letters and boundary-crossing of complaints to the board.
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #29: The Case of the Anonymous Letter • If the head has personal or personnel issues with particular faculty members, the head and the administrative team need to work through these issues. NAIS believes that faculty performance criteria should include “good attitude,” and that “good attitude” includes support for the leadership of the school. • The board should work proactively with the head to cultivate good relations with faculty and other school constituents. • It is important that the formal evaluation program for the head of school include managing and communicating with faculty. • Administering annually or biannually the NAIS “customer satisfaction survey” can produce data for the board to see how all constituencies (including the faculty and staff) are viewing the school, its programs, its leadership (board and administration) and the faculty. Return
Case #30: The Case of Breaking the Rules Leadership Issues in Play & Ethical Practices at Stake: • Should the school leadership hold faculty and staff accountable for following the same zero tolerance drug policies that students must abide by? What if the event happened off campus rather than on campus but news of it circulated in the community? • With whom does the head consult given the nature of the crisis? • If the media gets wind of the event, what is the school’s message to the local public?
Case #30: The Case of Breaking the Rules Leadership Issues in Play & Ethical Practices at Stake: • What if the behavior is not proscibed by the staff handbook—or some general, contractual language about “conduct unbecoming a professional working with children and families”? • What is the message to one’s students body? To the faculty? • If some or all of the faculty must be asked to resign, how do you cover their classes?
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #30: The Case of Breaking the Rules • The head of school and dean must fully investigate the allegations to find out what really happened while protecting the “whistleblower” from retaliation. The dean of faculty and head should hold the faculty accountable for their behavior and act immediately to protect students and the school community. At the same time, faculty members must be given due process and treated with dignity and respect. • If the allegations are true, the head of school must gather the admin team together to come to a decision on a united front basis: NAIS believes the “four-way test” (see Crisis Protocols) would dictate dismissing the faculty given poor judgment shown, the violation of trust, and the breaking of the law. • The head and key school administrators such as the PR Director will need to communicate with students, parents, and other constituent groups about the dismissals. It is important to make this a teachable moment for the students.
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #30: The Case of Breaking the Rules • The faculty handbook should outline school policies regarding faculty behavior and include a general “catch-all” condition regarding “general professional deportment” at all times, on and off campus. • The head of school must find replacements for the dismissed teachers and find ways to manage classes without a full staff: This is the time the head would ask and expect the faculty to rally around the flag and cover their dismissed colleagues’ classes until reinforcements are hired. • An “EQ” (emotional intelligence) reality is that it is important to show compassion for the faculty who must leave and to make their departure as dignified as possible, and to know that their close friends in the community will be in mourning and will need attention. Return
Case #31: The Case of the “Package Deal” Leadership Issues in Play & Ethical Practices at Stake: • Should the development office and the board have any role in attempting to influence admissions decisions? • How is this case different from a faculty coach trying to influence an admissions admit for a star hockey player with marginal academic credentials? • What’s the role of the head of school in a stand-off between the development/board interests and the admissions office/faculty interests? • How does the admissions director react when a head, however lightly, pressures her to consider factors beyond the match of the student to the school? • How does a school handle the conflict with another independent school who believes your school to be “poaching” its students?
NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake Case #31: The Case of the “Package Deal” • Trustees like all other supporters of the school are welcome to encourage appropriate applicants to the school and to share recommendations on students and families. The boundary line gets crossed when the recommendation becomes lobbying, since the board’s role is to stipulate the general type of student the mission dictates the school should accept (e.g., college-prep) but delegate to the head and his team the execution, the operational decisions about which qualifying students to admit. • It’s naïve to think that development considerations would have any less influence than other considerations (athletics, legacies, faculty children, etc.), so long as the candidate matches the profile of those students who can succeed at the school. • In a stand-off between the development/board interests and the admissions office/faculty interests, the head makes the call (and takes the hit from one constituency or the other).
Admissions: The Case of the Prominent Family “Package Deal” ~ Scott Looney NAIS’s Take on the Leadership Issues in Play & PGPs at Stake • The head’s team member (admissions director) needs to raise the ethical issues to his or her head if the head is wont to ignore them: Part of the job of admin team members is to “manage up” and to be especially sensitive to ethical issues and “principles of good practice.” • In competition for students (and faculty), neighboring independent schools need to accept the ambiguity involved in competing Principles of Good Practice that assert collegial relationships as key between the schools but also note the free market right of parents to shop for the best match for their kids (or for faculty to explore other employment options). It is fair to point out that when parents break contracts they have a consequence (requirement to pay full tuition in many cases). When faculty break a contract, their consequence is the attitude that most heads adopt: “I wouldn’t want someone in our school who breaks a contract, especially at a late date, and certainly wouldn’t recommend that person to another school.” Return