One of the FAQs we receive concerns a school's grievance policy. A parent is unhappy with a school decision and wants to address the matter with the board. How should the board respond to parent complaints? That's one of the things we have to do, right?
Well, maybe. Central to board best practices is understanding the difference between issues of management and issues of governance. Which decisions belong to the board and which decisions belong to the head? Standard C.6. reads, "The board should employ the head of school as its sole employee , delegate the operational functions of the school to the head, and respect the boundaries that separate board governance and administrative management.”
Too often, a school's grievance policy opens the door to blurring those boundaries. I remind boards that you are not the "court of last resort" for administrative decisions that might be unpopular. In those instances, the best contribution the board can make is to ask the question, "What can we do to support the head to respond to the complaint?"
Obviously, some matters will qualify as an appropriate grievance that should be brought to the board's attention--especially if the matter goes to misconduct involving the head of school. Too often, however, I see boards get pulled into administrative matters because of a lack of any formal grievance policy or a policy that is worded so vaguely that anything can rise to the level of landing on board's agenda.
How is your grievance policy worded? Is it consistent with the understanding of the board's role of governance versus the head's role of administration? Don't hesitate to reach out to us if we can be of assistance or if you would like to explore this further.