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Role of the Staff Trustee

STA News, October 2003.

What is the role of the staff trustee?

The staff trustee is elected to represent the views of the staff of the school in the same way that parent trustees are elected to represent the views of the community. First and foremost the staff trustee is a Trustee and like all Trustees must act in the best interests of the students at the school.

This does not mean that the staff trustee is akin to a union rep or employment advocate that must take on every cause but that you may raise governance issues and take part in discussion and decision making based on a mixture of your personal views and the views of those who voted for you. Bringing issues to the attention of the board must be within the boards set procedures and must not undermine the role of the principal. There can be no surprises at board meetings therefore raising issues as "general business" is to be avoided at all costs.

When it comes to trusteeship your main communication with the board should be through the board chair. In particular if you would like something included on the agenda, or if you want clarification about an issue s/he is the person to talk too.

How the staff trustee participates is up to them, with some choosing to consult and report to the board on the staff's view of agenda items and others simply expressing their views as a staff member to balance discussions at board meetings.

The staff trustee is not expected to report to the board on any matter in the school unless specifically requested by the board to do so. Sometimes people expect the staff trustee to report to the board on all educational matters. Reports on curriculum, achievement, discipline etc are for the Principal to obtain and present to the board (these may of course be written by other staff). Of course the board can ask any staff member to come to a board meeting and impart information on a topic.

Your role does not mean that you can bypass the usual avenues for staff to take specific complaints or employment problems to the board. If you are the bearer of a complaint, or act as an advocate for a complainant, then you are likely to be in a conflict situation. It is then inappropriate for you to be involved in the board's discussions and investigation of the matters raised. In the same way parent trustees should not bring a specific complaint from a member of the community to the board but should ask the complainant to follow the board's complaints policy.

As with the relationship between the Principal and the student trustee the relationship between the Principal and the staff trustee is slightly unusual. As a board member the staff trustee is a member of the employing body however on a day to day basis he or she is still a staff member under the principal's management.

In practise this can lead to some awkward moments. The staff trustee should try to act on a "no surprises" basis with the Principal. In other words if there is a matter you want to be put on the agenda for a board meeting it is only fair that the Principal knows what it is. However as long as you have followed a good process and the issue you want discussed is a "governance issue" you do not need the Principal's agreement to raise the matter.

Be aware that you are now a member of the employing body. You must keep confidential all items that are discussed in the "public excluded" part of the meeting.

In some instances this can be a difficult position, as the rest of the staff are unaware of the responsibilities that this role entails. It may be worthwhile documenting the responsibilities before the staff election so that everyone is clear on the responsibilities.

Staff Trustees Position Description

Position Title:

Staff Trustee Board of Trustees

Primary Purpose:

The role of the staff trustee is to present to the board of trustees the views of the staff and to report to the staff non-management related decisions of the board as per the minutes.

As a trustee the staff trustee has an obligation to serve the broader interests of the school and its students.

The staff trustee fulfils legislative requirements, relating to board composition.

Key Responsibilities

1 To work within the Board's Charter

2 To abide by the board's governance and operational policies

3 The staff trustee is first and foremost a trustee and must act in the best interests of the students at the school at all times.

4 The staff trustee is bound by the Trustee Code of Conduct.

5 To be accessible to staff members and to receive staff views, where appropriate, prior to Board meetings.

6 To fairly and accurately present staff views to the board

7 To fairly, accurately and promptly report on the board meeting to the staff, in conjunction with the Principal.

8 It is not expected that the staff trustee act as a union delegate.

9 It is not necessary for the staff trustee to prepare a verbal or written report for the board unless specifically requested to from the board.

For more information please contact Elaine Hines on 0-4-9390570. 0-27-4750633 or email ehines@nzsta.org.nz.