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Centerboard: Doing my part

April 2005
By: Tom Lothamer

I've had the privilege of serving on my local school board for thirteen years. This past Valentine's Day two third graders sent me a heart-shaped note saying: "Thank you for caring about us and making good choices. Thank you for running the school!!!"

I laughed as I read it because their naïve perception of a board member's role is not too different from that of many adults who actually serve on boards. Let me just say for the record that school board members do not run schools any more than pregnancy care center boards run PCCs.

Do you disagree? Answer these five questions with either "true" or "false."

  1. The board hires, fires, and supervises all PCC staff members.
  2. Board members manage day-to-day operations at the center.
  3. A board member may assign tasks to the center's staff or volunteers without the director's knowledge or consent.
  4. A board member may create and publish a web site for the center without the director's input. (This actually happened at one center.)
  5. Individual board members may act independently on behalf of the ministry.

If you answered "true" to any of these statements, you might have a board that runs the PCC.

What's wrong with that? It is simply not the board's role to run the PCC. Doing so, they will hurt the center rather than help it. The daily tasks of the PCC fall to the staff and volunteers under the supervision of the director or executive director. The board, meanwhile, has the broader role of defining the mission of the center, setting its policy and budget, and hiring the chief administrator.

Yes, there are occasions—particularly when a center is very new or very small—when necessity may require some overlap of roles, but this should never be standard operating procedure. Board and staff members need to understand the differences in their roles and maintain separation as much as possible.

On my school board, we have seven members. We don't go into the schools and order teachers around or engage in educational activities. Only the superintendent answers to us, and he answers to the board as a whole. The same differentiation of roles should be true of PCC boards and administrators.

At the time of this writing, Tom Lothamer was President of Life Matters Worldwide in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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