We are receiving questions from board chairs about governance issues involved in the coronavirus situation. They are asking what savvy boards should be talking about at this point in the ongoing crisis–a point where most schools have shifted to remote learning and are planning for canceled proms and virtual commencements. These are the subjects that should be consuming management (heads and their teams). Boards should hear from management about how the transition to remote school is going, but do not need to be involved in firefighting the emergent situation.
Instead, boards need to pivot to a forward-looking focus on the longer term existential challenges looming ahead. There are a raft of “what-if’s” that need scenario analysis, even as the future remains at best an impressionistic image:
- What if 25% (or more) of students fail to return next year, regardless of their parents having signed re-enrollment contracts?
- What if a large share of newly admitted students request financial aid (or “flexible tuition” in the contemporary vernacular)?
- What if school as we know it–180+ days per year of students with teachers–is no longer possible, given repeated cycles of in-school and remote learning as the virus waxes and wanes; how then does our school justify its tuition premium?
- How can this epic Lewinian moment/opportunity of “unfreezing” be used to our school’s advantage?
As this train wreck plays out, these questions will become a lot more relevant for a great many schools.