Some frequently asked questions about the Board of Trustees
Gordon's Board of Trustees is one of the groups of essential volunteers who give of their time, talent and resources to serve this community. We’ve heard of corporate boards, public school boards, working boards, fundraising boards, and advisory boards. Independent school boards are a unique flavor of not-for-profit boards. Below is a review of how the Board of Trustees operates at Gordon.
What is the role of the Board of Trustees?
The Board of Trustees at Gordon serves three main capacities.
First, they are ambassadors of the school. They are expected to embody and convey Gordon’s mission in their interactions in the community and be the chief advocates for the school.
Second, trustees are fiduciaries, meaning that they are responsible for stewarding the school’s resources: our people, our facilities, and our financial assets.
Last, Gordon trustees are strategists, responsible for determining the future direction of the school in partnership with the Head of School.
Because the Head of School reports directly to the Board, this body is also focused on providing comprehensive support to the Head. This responsibility encompasses the full trajectory of a head's tenure, from initial hire and transition to annual evaluation and professional development, and ultimately through the end of the Head's contract.
Who is on the Board of Trustees?
There are currently twenty-four trustees, including seven alumni and nineteen parents with children at Gordon representing all three divisions of the school. Twenty-six percent of the Board are trustees of color. Collectively, trustees represent a wide range of professional skills, educational backgrounds, and volunteer experience.
Three ex officio seats on the Board are reserved for the Head of School, a GCA appointee, and a faculty member elected by their colleagues.
The Board has six officers: the Chair, three Vice Chairs, a Treasurer, and a Secretary, who all serve on the Board’s Executive Committee.
Gordon’s three Assistant Heads, the Director of Philanthropic Engagement and the Executive Assistant to the Head of School join all meetings as invited staff.
One characteristic of independent school boards is that parents usually make up much of the membership. This can be beneficial in that current families are among the school’s strongest advocates, and having trustees who know the members of the community personally, whether it be children, faculty or other parents, brings a level of empathy and connection to decision making that is helpful in the boardroom, especially when hard decisions need to be made. The downside of this manifests when a trustee views policy or strategic decisions through the lens of their child’s or their family’s experience only. The Board Chair is responsible for keeping trustees focused on their strategic work and for ensuring that the Board entrusts the daily management of the school to the Head of School and the Leadership Team.
What are the term limits of the Board of Trustees?
In general, trustees are elected to three-year terms and can serve a maximum of two consecutive terms.
Board officers serve one-year terms, and the Chair may name up to four trustees to serve as presidential appointees for a one-year term. There are no limits on how many terms officers or board chair appointees can serve.
How does someone get on the Board of Trustees?
New trustees are nominated annually by the Trusteeship Committee, an active standing committee that meets regularly and reviews the make-up of the Board, paying attention to needs around the table and the strategic work ahead.
The Trusteeship Committee is charged with evaluating the Board’s long-range leadership requirements, ensuring that trustees with specific knowledge and competence are available when the Board requires a particular expertise, be it an architect to help identify future needs in the buildings and grounds, a lawyer to ensure accountability to governing bylaws, or a financial expert to advise on investment strategy. The Board must also include individuals who have the knowledge and ability to chair each of the Board’s standing committees. Finally, the composition of the Board should reflect the racial, gender, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity of Gordon’s student body.
The Trusteeship Committee has many variables to consider and sources names of candidates for nomination in a variety of ways. They begin with the roster of parents who are currently volunteering on one of the board committees. They note these individuals’ personal and professional expertise in relation to the greatest needs of the Board, as well as the work they have already done on behalf of the school. As members of the Trusteeship Committee, the Head of School and Assistant Head of School for Institutional Advancement and Community Engagement also make recommendations for nominees that receive serious consideration. Additionally, the chairs of other board committees, GCA leadership, and Gordon leadership, faculty and staff who work alongside volunteers in our community are helpful in sourcing potential names for the Board or board committees.
This ongoing review of the board committees produces an extensive pool of very qualified individuals with a variety of backgrounds from which the committee can pull qualified people to fill the board’s specific needs.
Do you have to give to the Gordon Fund at a particular level in order to be on Gordon’s Board?
The simple answer is no. Gordon trustees are expected to give to the Gordon Fund, and it is expected to be one of their top philanthropic priorities, regardless of the amount they give. 100% trustee participation in the Gordon Fund is an important indicator to other donors of the Board’s belief in the mission of the school, but there is no expectation that our trustees give or help raise a minimum dollar amount.
How do trustees oversee the finances?
The short answer is that, as the governing body of the school, the Board of Trustees is charged with the responsible stewardship of Gordon's finances.
The longer answer involves an annual cycle of reviews, discussions, projections and decision making.
Each year, the Board outlines Gordon’s strategic goals, and the Finance Committee, led by the Treasurer and the Chief Financial Officer, presents them with a budget that reflects both those strategic priorities and the operational objectives for the year articulated by the Head of School in partnership with the Leadership Team. Each April, the budget for the following year is finalized and presented to the Board for approval. The Board reviews the annual budget alongside a five-year projection and partners with the Head of School and CFO to ensure thoughtful management of the school’s resources in the short-term while also considering the impact of its decisions on the school’s long-term financial sustainability.
In addition to expense management, the Board is also responsible for growing revenue. Gordon has three main sources of income: tuition income, fundraising income and interest on the endowment. Here, too, the trustees are responsible for partnering with the Head of School to ensure that the school meets its annual revenue goals while also thinking strategically about ways to grow Gordon’s income into the future.
The Board, the Head of School, the CFO, the Treasurer, and the Finance and Investment Committees of the Board monitor the budget over the course of the year. Any significant changes in expenses and income are reported to the Board, and, at year’s end, the Board commissions an independent audit of the school’s accounts.
What are the standing committees of the Board? How are non-trustees selected to join a Board committee?
The Board is advised by standing committees, which are active throughout the year advancing the strategic priorities of the Board. The full list of board committees can be found in the sidebar on this page.
The committees are made up primarily of current parents and Gordon staff and are led by a trustee chair and an administrative liaison from the Gordon Leadership Team. There are no term limits for committee participation. Committee membership, however, is by invitation and newly nominated members must be approved by the Board of Trustees. Administrative liaisons often take the lead in the selection of Board committee members, partnering with the Trusteeship Committee and the committee chairs to identify individuals in our community who have the relevant expertise and an interest in serving Gordon School in a deeper way. Sometimes, parents have taken the initiative to let school or board leadership know they are interested in serving on a board committee, and the school always welcomes these conversations.
Parents, caregivers, grandfriends and alumni who are interested in joining a committee should contact Veronica Jutras, Assistant Head of School for Institutional Advancement and Community Engagement, at email@example.com, or Alexandra O’Connor, Director of Philanthropic Engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the Board sets its strategic priorities, committees take on the legwork of researching and shaping the school's options. The committee's work returns to the full Board in the form of recommendations, which are then discussed and evaluated to determine next steps.
This committee structure allows the Board to draw on the energy and expertise of dozens of thoughtful, talented people, and it provides the larger adult community to participate directly in the growth of the school. Between meetings of the Board, the committees and their subcommittees, and ad hoc committees that tackle specific projects on behalf of the Board, Gordon’s governance team is robust and constantly engaged in the work of advancing Gordon’s mission.
How are the Board’s goals for the school year determined? What are the goals for the Board for the 2023-24 school year?
The Board's annual goals are designed from the following:
- Gordon’s Strategic Vision
- Head of School’s goals for the year and other operational initiatives that require strong Board support
- Board retreat conversations
- Board and committee conversations from the previous year
- The recommendations made during the accreditation process that all members of the Association of Independent Schools of New England undergo every ten years.
Board goals are formally approved each fall and shared in the parent portal, www.gordonschool.org/parentlogin.