A Working Board

By Jay Cheng, Board Chair  

*Published in this spring's Alumni News Magazine

At Taipei American School, we have a unique advantage in that we have a “working board” that actively plays a role in our school's long-term success. Just as parents trust our teachers and administrators with the care of our students, so, too, does the TAS Board take care of our collective organization.  

Unlike other school boards in Taiwan, our board composition is based on a hybrid American School board model.  Our board is made up of 14 dedicated professionals who volunteer their time, treasure, and talents to the school. All take an oath to serve the school, and all are committed to ensuring that our school provides a truly exceptional education to our students – and not just the students who are currently enrolled.  

In this article, I would like to explain what our board of directors does, how we help to support our school, and perhaps dispel a few myths about their role in school life and decision-making.  

The primary role of our board of directors is setting the school’s mission, hiring and overseeing the head of school, and ensuring the financial stability of our school. This also means that the board is responsible for setting the strategic direction of the school and ensuring that we are using our resources effectively and efficiently to achieve our goals. 

Taipei American School prides itself on having a diverse and knowledgeable board of directors. Each member of the board brings a unique set of skills and experiences that are utilized to ensure the school's success. Some board members have expertise gained from serving on the boards of other educational institutions, which provides a valuable perspective and insight into industry trends. Others have a financial background or experience starting their own businesses, which makes them particularly suited to review the school's financial reports and provide guidance on financial matters. 

In addition to their professional backgrounds, many board members have strong connections to the school, such as being alumni or having served on other private, public, or nonprofit advisory boards. These connections provide a deep understanding of the school's history, culture, and values, which helps to inform strategic decision-making. 

Our board of directors is dedicated to strategically governing Taipei American School, and each member brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the organization.  The board holds monthly meetings to review the school's performance, including financial performance, academic results, and operational effectiveness. Additionally, the board provides guidance and support to the school's leadership team, including the Head of School and other administrators, to ensure the long-term success of the school. 

To ensure that all aspects of the school are represented and successful, the Board of Directors at Taipei American School recognizes the value of seeking feedback from both its administrators and the broader community. While board members may not always have an educational background, the expertise brought by administrators and teachers is crucial in setting goals for educational programming. This is especially important given that education is a fundamental aspect of our school, and nearly all of our programs have some educational component. Therefore, by incorporating feedback from multiple perspectives, the Board can make informed decisions that align with the school's mission, values, and Strategic Plan. 

It is often difficult for parents, faculty, staff, and even board members to differentiate between board-level decisions and school administration-level decisions, and this is a common theme among independent schools. At Taipei American School, the Head of School is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the school, while the board provides guidance and oversight to ensure that the school is moving in the right direction. They work closely together to achieve their shared goals for the school, including promoting the values and mission of the school and creating a supportive and effective learning environment for all students. 

The board recognizes the importance of collaboration with the school's leadership team, particularly the Head of School, who possesses the necessary educational expertise to manage the day-to-day operations effectively. While the board holds the Head of School accountable, it understands that entrusting the daily management of the school to educational experts is crucial for the school's success. 

To help the board navigate the responsibilities of governing Taipei American School, a commonly referenced litmus test is as follows: 

  • If the item in question pertains to something that needs to be addressed immediately or within the current school year, it is typically the responsibility of the school administration. 

  • If the item in question pertains to something that is long-term, beyond five years from now, it is typically the responsibility of the Board of Directors. 

  • If the item in question pertains to something that falls within a timeframe of one to five years, it is often a shared responsibility between the school administration and the Board. 

While it's important to keep in mind that this is not a one-size-fits-all solution, this framework can be helpful in understanding the role of the Board. The Board's focus is on the long-term success of the school, and as such, they strive to remain as neutral as possible in the present. This allows them to conserve their time and energy for preserving the organization for future generations of learners. 

Since the board is responsible for ensuring the financial stability of the school, an important part of their role is to provide fundraising support. Private schools often rely on donations and fundraising efforts to supplement tuition revenue and provide additional resources for students. To achieve our fundraising goals, our board members are actively involved in our fundraising efforts and work to build relationships with donors and supporters. This is a widely accepted practice in the private school community and is considered a best practice by accrediting bodies such as WASC and NAIS. As dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers, our board members are in the best position to communicate the value of the TAS experience to others. 

In addition, our board of directors helps to ensure that our school maintains a strong sense of community and a positive culture. The strategic plan created by the board of directors 2 years ago has provided a roadmap for achieving this goal. They provide guidance and support for our school's policies and procedures, and they work to foster a sense of inclusivity and diversity within our school community. They also serve as ambassadors for our school, promoting our mission and values to prospective families and supporters. 

In summary, our board of directors plays a vital role in ensuring the future health and success of our school. They provide governance and oversight, fundraising support, and guidance and support for our school's leadership team.  Overall, our board of directors is instrumental in maintaining a strong sense of community and a positive culture within our school.   

As a working board, our members volunteer an enormous amount of time and effort to create initiatives that ensure the success of our school and its students. I am constantly inspired by my fellow board members, who come from diverse backgrounds and bring unique perspectives to our team. Their unwavering commitment to the TAS Tiger family is a testament to their dedication and passion for education. 

As your board chair, I am humbled and honored to work alongside such a remarkable group of individuals. I have no doubt that their tireless efforts of today and tomorrow will continue to elevate the quality of education we provide and help us shape the future leaders of our community and beyond. Together, we can build a brighter future for our students and ensure that they have every opportunity to achieve their dreams.