T R U S T E E    R E S P O N S I B I L I T I E S

Independent School Governance


Independent schools have boards of trustees, not boards of directors. This is because holding a school, its mission, and its future “in trust” implies a very different role than “directing the operation,” which is the job of the head of school.


The school’s governance is led by a deliberative group with clearly defined roles and responsibilities that are key to the sustainability of the school. The governing body attends to new policy and changes in existing policy, all within the spirit of the mission of the school, and consistently exercises its fiduciary responsibility while delegating the operational and educational functions of the school to the Head of School. 



Expectations of an Independent School Trustee

Full-Board, Executive Board and/or Committee Meetings:

  • Maintain excellent attendance.

  • Read background materials and come prepared.

  • Participate in discussions according to one's knowledge, conscience, and convictions.

  • Support majority decisions.

  • Suggest agenda items.

  • Regulatory attend meetings.  Within any one of the three meeting categories (Full-Board, Executive Board, Committee), missing two meetings within a five month period, or three meetings over the course of a school year,  may be grounds for Board dismissal.

Board Orientation and In-Service Education:

  • Become familiar with the Trustee Manual.

  • Proactively become knowledgeable about Board policies and procedures.



  • Raise questions and communicate concerns to the President and other administrative officers in a timely manner.

  • Encourage open communication within the Board and with the School.

  • Maintain confidentiality of Board deliberations.

  • Direct parents and teachers to administration for administrative concerns without voicing opinion

  • Regularly and promptly responds to all Board communication - even if just to acknowledge receipt.

  • Maintain discretion in copying others in text messages, emails, or verbal communication.  Think about who really needs to be part of this conversation.


Financial Understanding & Responsibility:

  • Read and understand financial statements.

  • Willingly and actively assumes responsibility to always be knowledgeable and up-to-date on Ellison's financial health and participate in timely problem solving as needed.  Each trustee, not just the treasurer and finance committee, has fiduciary responsibility to the school for sound financial management.

  • Submit tuition and fees regularly according to chosen payment plan.  In order to allow adequate time for funds to post in appropriate accounts for payroll and accounts payable purposes, tuition and fees must always be paid by the 1st of the month.  Accounts are considered delinquent and late fees are applied as the the 2nd of the month.

  • In addition to administrative sanctions for tuition and fee delinquency, repeatedly submitting tuition and fees later than the 1st of the month may be grounds for Board dismissal.


Board Composition:

  • Continually attempt to identify highly qualified potential trustees and refer them to the Committee on Trustees.



  • Work toward consensus in policy matters.

  • Gain the knowledge about Ellison and the issues involved that are required to make wise policy decisions.


Fund Raising:

  • Contribute personally to the annual fund and capital campaigns to the extent of one's ability.

  • Assist in identifying and acquiring external resources for the School according to one's interests, abilities, and available opportunities.

  • Actively participate in the development efforts of the school

  • Contribute to the development program of the school, including strategic planning for development, financial support, and active involvement in annual and capital giving.

Knowledge of Ellison:

  • Become and remain knowledgeable about the school’s mission and goals, including its commitment to equity and justice, and represents them appropriately and accurately within the community.

  • Become knowledgeable about the area of Ellison that relates to one's Board participation assignments.

  • Participate in the life of Ellison (e.g. attend significant campus events such as adult evening activities, main fundraisers, week-end student events, volunteer to plan and support events, lunchroom, am-pm care "emergency" coverage needs, etc.)

  • Read Ellison publications such as the Annual Report, Board meeting documentation packets, and administrative and Board emails.

Dedication and Loyalty to Ellison School and Board:

  • Participate fully in all activities

  • With rest of Board, regularly assess the effectiveness of the whole Board as a governing body

  • Accept and support Board decisions. Once a decision has been made, the Board speaks as one voice. If uncomfortable with what to say, it is best to defer to another Board member or officer.

  • Understand that the authority rests with the entire Board and not individual board members​.  Authority is vested in the board as a whole.

  • Support the School and its Head and to actively demonstrate that support within the community.

Modeling & Leading by Example:

  • Visibly promote fundraising sales and purchases during event planning phases (e.g. actively sell & purchase Lucky Calendars, basket raffle tickets, advertising booklet sales, etc.)

  • Attend - and volunteer to work - Ellison events

  • See Financial Understanding & Responsibility above 

Good Will Ambassadorship & Advocacy of Ellison:

  • Actively support and promote the School’s mission, vision, strategic goals, and policy positions.

  • Speak knowledgeably and positively about Ellison in business and social contexts.

  • Publicly speak with one voice regarding Board and School matters.

  • Assist in advocating for legislation, government support, or other public assistance to benefit Ellison.

  • In general, use one's personal, political, or economic influence to benefit Ellison.

  • Serves as a Good Will Ambassador during good times and bad, ensuring confidence in stake holders regardless of challenges being experienced at School and Board levels (e.g. positively promote all Board decisions and initiatives whether personally in favor or not; Assure stakeholders that "all is well" or that "issue will be passed on and addressed" when presented with rumors or concerns)

Leadership & Pro-Active Participation:

  • Serve in leadership positions or undertake special assignments when asked, to the extent of one's ability and availability.

  • Fully lead and participate in assigned events and tasks throughout school year and summer months (e.g. Chair one committee; Assume sole or shared responsibility for full execution  of at least one annual event such as Bag BINGO, Comedy Night, Santa Breakfast, Thanksgiving Feast, etc.)

  • As an Executive Board Member, take on added responsibility of additional monthly meeting;  fully lead and participate in assigned events and tasks throughout school year and summer months (e.g. Auction; Financial knowledge, problem-solving, and health; etc.)




Support, Empathy, & Respect for Fellow Board Members, Administration & Staff:

  • The Board sets policy and focuses on long-range and strategic issues. An individual trustee does not become involved directly in specific management, personnel, or curricular issues. 

  • Avoid interference in administrative matters.

  • Understand that although you may hold an opinion about how a comprehensive education should should be facilitated, that administration was hired to define and carry-out one vision (with Board input of course) for which he or she is responsible and accountable.   Understand that even if an educational professional yourself, the educational vision, once defined, is in  the hands of the administration. and must be outwardly and positively supported by the Board as a whole and all individual Board Members. 


  • Support reasonable risk-taking by administrators.

  • Support the school and Head of School and demonstrates that support within the community


  • A trustee who learns of an issue of importance to the school has the obligation to bring it to the head of school, or to the board chair, and must refrain from responding to the situation individually.

  • Follow normal channels of communication and decision-making within the administration.  Suggest to stakeholders that they personally contact teacher first, then administration as opposed to taking on responsibility of passing on their message for them (although a heads-up of what may be coming is valuable to fellow Board Members and administration).

  • Understand that once a concern is passed on to administration, your responsibility has been met.  You can be assured your message will be addressed but due to certain confidentiality needs, a follow-up may not necessarily be provided

  • Provide advice and support to the President and administrative officers.

  • Do not bring up concerns, complaints, criticisms of School, staff, administration, or fellow Board Members among non-Board Members and certainly never during Board Meeting public sessions.


Conflict of Interest:

  • Separate the interests of the School from the interests of a particular constituency or child

  • Guard against conflict of interest, whether personal or business related.


  • Asking for special favors of the administration, including requests for information without at least prior consultation with the Board or committee chairperson.

  • Prejudiced judgments based on information received from individuals on campus without consulting those directly responsible.

  • Accepting property or loans from the Institution.

  • Accepting favors or gifts from anyone who does business with the Institution, or providing them to such business.

  • Benefiting financially at the Institution's expense.

  • Participating in conversations which breed controversy or negativity regarding Ellison

  • Making social media posts or comments which breed controversy or negativity regarding Ellison

T H E    E L L I S O N    S C H O O L

1017 South Spring Road

Vineland, New Jersey 08361




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