What is the role of the Board of Trustees?
Members of the board are committed to the mission of Mustard Seed and hold it in trust. We give of our time, talent, and treasure to further the work of the school. We also hire and evaluate the head of school.
Who serves on the board?
At any given time, the board has 10-15 members and they reflect some of the diversity of the community. We try to have a mix of parents and non-parents. Men and women. People from different backgrounds and walks of life. They have different callings. Pastor. Yoga instructor. Teacher. Lawyer. Investment analyst. Renewable energy developer. And I can’t forget head of school. Tom Postema is Ex-Officio, which means that he serves on the board because of his position as head of school.
You mentioned that board members give of their time, talent, and treasure. Can you tell us more about that? Do you have to be wealthy to serve on the board?
First let me say that you do not have to be wealthy to serve on the board. The school does ask that trustees make a three-year financial pledge. It should be commensurate with their household resources and ability to give. This year, individual board members will give anywhere from $500-$50,000.
But the giving of the board goes way beyond financial support. Trustees bring their gifts and experience to bear on our work together. And they give a significant amount of time. The number of full board meetings works out to about once a month during the months that school is in session. Two of those meetings are extended sessions on Saturdays. Every trustee serves on a committee which meets in between full board meetings. Committees like finance. Real estate. Development. Governance. Head evaluation. Strategic planning.
What do the committees do?
Take the real estate committee, for example. Do you know that we have a 15 year lease from Our Lady of Grace Church? This is an unusually long lease to secure from the Catholic Diocese. It took years of effort. Research. Negotiations. Legal review. More negotiations. Then the real estate committee brought their final recommendations to the full board for discussion and finally, a vote.
The finance committee recommends the budget in April, but that is just one of many deliverables. Throughout the year, the committee ensures that the day-to-day finances of the school and the long-term outlook support the mission. They work closely with Gary Lawrence (Director of Finance and Operations) and Tom Postema, keeping track of enrollment and expenses. And every June, the committee produces a five-year forecast.
So committees are where a lot of the work happens.
Speaking of mission, how much does the mission figure in to meetings?
The mission is woven into every meeting. It touches everything we discuss. Financial aid. Teacher salaries. Real estate. Enrollment. Use of space.
How does the board navigate difficult decisions?
Discussion. Prayer. Reflection. Both group and individual discussions. What impresses me most about our board is the level of mutual respect and professionalism.
Our board is highly engaged. We are always asking difficult, probing questions. Meetings have lots of “whys” and “what abouts.” Lots of “have you thought about” and “why can’t we?”
The issues that we address are big and deep. It helps to have many people thinking about them.
Sounds like meetings can be intense!
There’s a lot of laughter at board meetings, too. People are always willing to put aside any differences for the greater good of the school. Yes, the issues are big and deep. But they’re not a heavy responsibility. We take them on with joy. The culture of the board is very like the culture of the school. Joyful.
What has the board accomplished during your tenure so far?
When I joined, the board was in the final stages of the school expansion. We had to manage the strategic expansion from 230 students to 280. It had financial implications. Real estate implications. Everything was suddenly much, much bigger. When I first joined, the development goal was $600,000. Last year, we raised over $1,000,000! It’s all tied into the growth. The time and effort of the board has dramatically increased. I’m proud of how we have managed the expansion together with the faculty and staff. It was well planned. The school is in a position of strength.
Sustainability is next. We’re looking at how we maintain the excellence of the program. The affordability. We’re always thinking about how we keep Mustard Seed School, Mustard Seed School.
You’ve probably heard that the school is currently involved in an accreditation process. Accreditation ties into sustainability. Examining the program and having experts visit and evaluate it. Having the staff reflect on every aspect of the school. It will make us stronger.
What is your favorite part of serving on the board?
For me, just knowing that I am able to volunteer to make our community a better place. And I have a very personal connection. I know so many of the faculty. So many of the parents. I can see the direct results of the efforts of the board in their lives. We are making a difference. It gets me excited to go to meetings. Excited to talk with other board members. It’s very fulfilling.