Board Training Informs and Inspires

March 16, 2011

The Boards of Limited Jurisdiction established as part of the CSDP approach replace boards that function solely in an advisory capacity. The new boards, with official authority and governed by operating principles, mark an era of more ownership and greater engagement of the laity – in decision making, policy making, and financial accountability.

Such a shift warrants a bold introduction. The dynamic, results-oriented training process offered by CSDP delivers exactly that. “The board training really laid the ground work and helped us establish parameters for how we should and should not be proceeding,” said Krista Fitzsimons, Parent/Board Member at Cape Trinity Catholic School (North Wildwood, NJ), who participated in the recent day-long session in Hammonton, NJ. “The speakers and staff were awesome – so interested in seeing us do well. They gave us the knowledge, tools, and most importantly the confidence to put this new approach into practice.”

Typically three to four boards across the diocese come together for a day of introductory training. Main sessions cover the importance of mission and the roles and responsibilities of the board. School-specific workshops address advancement, finance, and operating principles. “It’s critical that we incorporate school-specific enrollment data, retention data, and fundraising data into their day,” said Beth Alfonsi, Senior Consultant, CSDP. “This is each board’s opportunity to start identifying challenges and begin the conversation toward potential solutions.”

The discussion around roles and responsibilities of the board, incorporating real-life scenarios, is also highly insightful. “Their power is as a board, not as each individual member,” Beth said. “If approached by a disgruntled parent on a specific grievance, for instance, a board member should direct that person to the principal or other appropriate channel. We help them avoid getting mired down in issues that should be resolved elsewhere.” The board’s role requires a higher level of engagement and influence in the areas of advancement, facilities, finance, and policy.

CSDP board training has provided the Diocese of Camden a broader platform for conveying that “Faith in the Future” was not a once-and-done program but rather a process for ensuring the long-term viability of Catholic schools. “Some folks enter into this process with a general cynicism about the level of support from the Diocese,” said Nick Regina, Executive Director Catholic Schools, Diocese of Camden, who has led the workshops on board roles and responsibilities and operating principles. “They come here and realize that a plan actually does exist. This really isn’t business as usual.” 

Future issues of Advance will address the process for establishing a Board of Limited Jurisdiction and will report on follow-up and maintenance sessions as well as best practices that result from CSDP training.