Trustees for all private schools

Adec plan to make sure teachers and parents have say in school governance.

Schools benefit in the long term from having parents represented on boards of trustees. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
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ABU DHABI // All private schools in the emirate will be required to establish an elected board of trustees of teachers and parents to oversee the school’s governance.

The Abu Dhabi Education Council announced the policy at a forum on Sunday that was attended by school owners, principals and investors representing 185 schools.

Dr Maryam Al Ali, Adec’s policy and planning section manager, said the new boards should be in place by the start of the 2015-2016 academic year.

They will be made up of between five and nine parents or teachers who are elected to the board by their peers.

The measures are part of Adec’s updated Private Schools Policies and Guidelines Manual and the Private Schools Regulations.

“It’s to allow democratic decision-making and agreed decision-making,” said Dr Al Ali.

“For example, for the mission and the vision of the school, can the principal do it himself alone? It’s like, you will get a shared decision-making instead of one only in control. It’s a decentralisation.”

“No one is omnipotent,” said Dr Paul Strebel, professor of governance and strategy at the Institute of Management Development.

“We all need someone to help us and a board is really there to help the owner and the head director run the school for the students.”

In June, Adec conducted a survey to determine how many schools had existing boards of trustees to set the school’s agenda and map out its future.

Of the 75 per cent of 185 schools who responded, 60 per cent indicated that they had a board of trustees in some form. Yet only 35 per cent of schools had at least one teacher and one parent representative on the board.

The survey also found that the majority of boards in Abu Dhabi private schools were relatively new, with only 20 per cent of respondents indicating that their boards had been in existence for more than five years and 15 per cent for between two and five years.

Representatives from the community at large can also be appointed. The school’s owner may sit on the board as its chairperson or as a voting member. The head teacher may sit on the board only as a non-voting member to offer information. No one is to receive financial compensation for their service on the board. The boards will be accountable to Adec and are responsible for defining the school’s strategic goals, setting its policies and providing fiscal and management guidance without micromanaging or interfering with the day-to-day operations of the school, which should be left to the school head and his or her administrative staff.

Laura Puryear, a parent and the chairwoman of the board of trustees at American Community School, said that having a board made up of parents helped to promote trust within the school community.

“Having a board of trustees that has parents on it creates this virtuous cycle of accountability and trust,” said Mrs Puryear. “Because we’re parents, we don’t have a financial stake in the school, but we all have children there. There’s a trust from the parent community that those decisions that are being made are for the overall thriving and benefit of the school in the long term.”

rpennington@thenational.ae