Board of Trustees

A letter from Your Board of Trustees

Follow the Child Montessori School has completed its 15th year of existence. Who could have imagined all that has been accomplished during this relatively short period? As the school has developed and matured, so has the role of the school’s Board of Trustees.

As an introduction to the operation of our school, we feel it is appropriate to outline some basics:

Why do we have a board and what is its role?

The bylaws of Follow the Child Montessori School, Inc. and the North Carolina statute governing nonprofit corporations require that we have a board of trustees. Boards of trustees are typically vested with the power to authorize all actions taken on behalf of the corporation. Boards oversee the management of the business affairs of the corporation and make major decisions affecting the corporation.

One of the most important responsibilities of the board is to assure that FCM has effective senior administration directing the day-to-day activities of FCM. Our head of school, Dominique Mouthon, directs the day-to-day administration of the school. The board relies on the head of school to work with administrative and teaching staff to ensure that the classroom learning experience is meeting the standards we all expect.

Who are the current members of the board?

The full size of the FCM Board is 15 members. The current members of your FCM Board:

Kimberly Bartman
Maggie Bizzell
Courtney Blum
Keith Coltrain
Kim Conklin
Asa Harris
Charlotte Holton
Sarah Kavanagh (FCM Chair of the Board)
Charles Lau
Michael Maher
Steven Martin
Dominique Mouthon
Ranjana Patel
Gene Pinder
Sumi Sarkar

Sylvia Saenger holds an honorary non-voting position as Head of School Emeritus.

How are our board members selected?

The bylaws provide for the election of 15 board members in addition to the head of school: 3 members may be elected by the school’s FCM Family Association, 2 by members of school faculty, and the balance is elected at large at our annual meeting. All elected board members have terms of 3 years with the exception of faculty-elected directors, who have terms of 2 years. In addition, whoever serves as president of our nonprofit corporation also serves on the board for as long as he or she holds that office.

Should you spend a few minutes reading the backgrounds of the current board members, you will note that they bring a variety of professional skills to our board. A range of skills is required for the board to effectively carry out its role, and this is considered in the nomination process.

What are the characteristics of a board member candidate? He or she:

  • Supports the mission of the school
  • Is able to protect confidential information
  • Has the ability to work in a deliberative team environment
  • Is willing to devote sufficient time to the work of the board and its committees
  • Is willing to use his or her professional skills in assisting the board in executing its role of overseeing prudent stewardship of the school
  • Is able to put personal agendas aside. This is a hard one as most members are parents, staff members or both. We must represent all stakeholders in our determinations—which does not imply decisions made will always please everyone.
  • Is willing to make introductions to resources that can be of assistance to the school; i.e., “opening doors”
  • Will ask the tough questions and assure all angles have been considered
  • Is available to FCM Administration to provide counsel or act as a sounding board while allowing the day-to-day running of the school to be handled by the administrative and teaching staff

After reading this letter, if you think you have skills that would be an asset to the board and our school community, please identify yourself for consideration to Dominique Mouthon or any member of the FCM Board Development Committee. Do keep in mind that service on the board, consistent with volunteer culture of FCM, is a volunteer activity. Most of our current (and prior) board members are (or were) members of the FCM community as parents, administrators, or teachers. We can have up to 6 “outside” board members. Let us know of any such candidates you think could bring value and would be willing to volunteer their time to serve on the Board.

How does the board operate?

The board holds scheduled meetings about six times per school year and participates in two board retreats. Additional special meetings may be scheduled at any time in person or by telephone conference.

A board meeting schedule is established at the beginning of each school year. The head of school submits a proposed agenda to the chairman in advance of each meeting. The chairman solicits agenda suggestions from all board members and approves the agenda. Any member of the board or administration may suggest a matter for consideration. The head of school then submits information on matters for consideration to all members in advance of the meeting. In addition to the head of school, the business manager generally attends board meetings.

Should a certain action require board authorization, after discussion and follow-through, as directed by the board, a formal resolution authorizing a proposed action or adopting a policy may result. In addition to formal board action, board members, or a committee of the board, may assist administration in its evaluation of any particular matters related to school business.

How do committees support the overall function of the board?

The board assigns members to the following committees which are comprised of board members and other members of the FCM community:

  • Finance
  • Long-Range Planning
  • Personnel (board members only)
  • Development Committee
  • Committee on Trustees
  • Independent Directors (board members only)

Each committee meets separately to carry out its functions as designated by the board, and reports to the board on its assignments. Committees meet as often as necessary to accomplish their assigned tasks.

In order for the board to be effective, its committees must be effective. Any significant undertaking of the board has been subjected to scrutiny by the appropriate committee.

As an example, the Finance Committee begins working with administration on the budget for school year in October (the fiscal year runs from August to July), and reviews an initial budget with the full board in February. This work will continue until a final budget is submitted for approval to the full board in June.

In another case, both the Finance Committee and Long-Range Planning Committee were involved for many months in evaluating a recommendation by administration that a third Children’s House be added for the 2005/2006 school year, in order to determine that such an action was financially sound and consistent with our long-range planning activities.

When a committee reports its findings or makes a recommendation to the board, all members have the opportunity and the responsibility to ask questions and discuss actions before any determination is made.

What does each committee do?

The Development Committee oversees all activities related to FCM’s fundraising efforts by establishing a fundraising plan (which features our annual fund campaign and the auction), setting fundraising goals for inclusion in the annual budget, and seeking community engagement.

The Finance Committee reviews financial reports and internal controls to assure prudent financial stewardship. This committee also works with administration in establishing an annual budget for the school for recommendation to the full board. In addition, the committee reviews and approves matters related to significant expenditure or investment decisions as well as financial reporting or policy matters.

The Committee on Trustees is primarily responsible for assuring an effective Board by recommending candidates for the board to fill upcoming vacancies and providing Board governance oversight.

The Personnel Committee is responsible for reviewing the performance of the Head of School and also to reviews any personnel policies, staffing plans, salary structures and benefit plans for FCM staff.

The Long-Range Planning Committee provides focus on our plans for what we want FCM to be from a scholastic, community and growth perspective–including facility matters.

The Independent Directors Committee meets periodically to promote open communication among independent directors and to consider matters not appropriate for consideration by a body including school staff members.

Other committees may be appointed from time to time for special projects.

And in Conclusion

Each of FCM’s past and present board members has made a significant commitment to service. Each of us has taken our responsibilities seriously and is working closely with administration to ensure that Follow the Child provides an excellent learning environment for our children. The board will continue its diligent oversight of the operations of the school to support our staff in their efforts to provide an exceptional Montessori environment for our students and protect our financial stability.

Any member of the community is welcome to communicate with the Board by e-mail, which may be accomplished from our website. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We hope that it is helpful.

Sincerely,

The FCM Board of Trustees