Board of Directors: Balancing Immediate Impact Along with Faithful Strategy

By Lee Clark, NNM parent

In college during my training as a resident advisor, I had a coordinator who always encouraged us to leave a place better than we found it. Being a member of the board allows me the opportunity to help make the school better for future NNM families. Realizing that we’re here for only a short time, we could be considered stewards of NNM, taking care of it for today’s students and the families to come.

As a board member, I bring my perspectives as both a person of color and a management consultant. This helps to ensure that many different voices are part of the discussion when it comes to strategic management of the school and its future direction. Moreover, my professional training, along with that of the other board members, helps to review issues from different lenses enabling us to offer up robust solutions and recommendations to the operational leaders of the school.

Being an independent school, the board serves a critical function helping to ensure the school’s long-term viability. Where the public schools have the city’s education organization, the board and its associations with various accrediting bodies help to provide oversight and guidance to the school.

As each person brings their unique skills and passions to the table, I tend to think of it as a synergistic entity in which the value of the organization is more than the sum of the individual members. Coming together we can take the group’s efforts up a few levels because we work well together. (And what is most impressive about the board is that it is completely voluntary.)

Given that the board is dedicated to one school, we are able to nimbly address issues quickly (think pandemic). I’m quite confident that given the board’s dedication to the school, Near North will remain a leader in Montessori education in the city for years to come.

Navigating my two roles as both a board member and a parent is an exercise in wearing different hats: that of immediately impacted stakeholder and that of more dispassionate fiduciary strategist, and sometimes those roles have conflicting incentives. As a parent, I have a vested interest in the day-to-day activities and how they impact my children, very much a self-motivated focus. However, there are times I have to step away from those interests and consider what is best for the entire school in the long-term. That may mean foregoing some immediate satisfaction for the sake of the greatest good of the many — even people whom I may never have the opportunity to meet.

The highlight of my tenure on the board to date has been to co-chair the search for the new head of school. We often highlight the strength of the community and how we come together in critical moments. The search was the ultimate example of the community rallying to focus on an issue that would impact each of us for the foreseeable future.

Being on the board during the search process, I was afforded the opportunity to see the school from many different stakeholders’ perspectives, giving me a richer appreciation for the school and the importance of our service. It’s rare that one gets the opportunity to make such an impact on the future of the school.