Trustees Discuss Optimizing Board Governance: Harvard Professor of Education Meets With Trustees

The Board of Trustees discussed maximization of the board’s value to Andover and implementation of the Strategic Plan this past weekend at its annual Spring meeting. The weekend consisted of events with students and faculty as well as meetings with speakers and representatives of various programs on campus. On Thursday, the board also met with Richard Chait, a professor of higher education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an expert on the board governance of non-profit educational institutions. The board consulted with him about 10 years ago after Oscar Tang ’54, President of the Board of Trustees, and Head of School Barbara Chase participated in a seminar led by Mr. Chait at a National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) meeting. Mr. Chait worked with the board in what Mr. Tang said was “a fairly extensive session to review the issue of board governance and leadership and how it is an asset to the institution and can be used more efficiently to further the interests of Andover.” Mr. Tang said, “[Chait] is a real authority in terms of governance, and we wanted to have him lead us through a look at what the best practices and opportunities are to make the board more effective.” According to Mr. Tang, rather than hold a session to deal with specific issues, the board worked with Mr. Chait as a consultant helping to “stimulate our thinking as to how we as a board can function better to be of more strategic value to the school.” The session led to subsequent discussion among board members as to how the board should organize itself and focus its attention on issues that have a “generative” outcome, a term often used by Mr. Chait to describe an important goal of the board. Mr. Tang said that though the board has many important financial issues to work with and the responsibility of making sure that “things are operating as they should be,” these logistics do not necessarily lead toward moving the institution forwards. “We want to focus on our intentions to generate ideas to advance the purpose of the school,” he added. Mr. Tang is confident in the potential of the board and proud of the progress made so far. He said, “We have a group of extremely capable and thoughtful people. We just need to organize and take care of the stuff we have to do so that we can focus all of our energy on forward progress and new ideas.” Board member Sidney R. Knafel said he felt that the board is very unique in that the members have a “serious and earnest interest in the school. Frequently there are differences of opinion, and they debate ardently, but they always seem to end up in consensus—[members’ opinions] get rolled into a single resolution with parts of one, and parts of another. The meetings are always very constructive.” On Thursday evening, the board met for dinner and discussion with members of the faculty including representatives of the Academic Council, the Advisory Committee, AdCom and Cluster Deans. According to Mr. Tang, the dialogue was focused on the implementation of the Strategic Plan and the role and leadership of the faculty at Phillips Academy. According to the official report on the weekend’s meetings by Director of Academy Communications Tracy Sweet, “the Trustee Task Force on Outreach and Institutional Identity met with program directors (IRT, PALS, Summer Session, (MS)2, Andover Bread Loaf) to gain a better understanding of each program’s scope and mission.” The Board also approved a budget of $85.7 million for Fiscal Year ’08, met with the architects working on the expansion of the Addison Gallery, and received updates on plans for Commons renovations. Meetings also included a presentation by the Admissions office focusing on student admittance for next year, and a presentation by John Anderson, Director of College Counseling, in which he showed and compared the acceptances of Andover’s Class of 2006 to the Senior classes of other schools. According to Mr. Tang, a major focus of the weekend was the discussion on the progress of the Strategic Plan, which he said he feels can be broken down into three important components. “First, there’s the issue of translating into action the phrase that has been in our constitution from the very beginning—to educate talented youth from every quarter. We are tasking ourselves to go more broadly and deeply in the definition, both geographically and racially, to seek out youth from these various areas who have both the talent and the want to benefit from an Andover education,” he said. To do so, Phillips Academy needs the financial resources; becoming need-blind is one of Mr. Tang’s principal goals. Mr. Tang also hopes to work on the programming side of the school. Already, pilot programs like ACE (Accelerate, Challenge, Enrich) are underway. ACE Scholars program will help to prepare students who begin at more basic levels (especially in Math and Science) to move through the Andover Curriculum to take the most advanced courses. Such programs are still under development and may require more funding and approval by the faculty in the future. The third area Mr. Tang hopes to concentrate on is the faculty. “We need talented and committed faculty who have a global perspective. The faculty may need to travel and to learn, and we need the resources to support these efforts,” he said At subsequent board meetings, the Trustees will look at how to marshal available resources. The board will define exactly what the needs are in each area, and will identify what will be required to fulfill these goals. The next Trustees meeting will take place in October.