Is it time to step off the board?

Monday was a sad day for me. It was time to step off the board of Blackstone Academy Charter School.

Flowers and gift basket

Leaving did generate great departing presents!

Have I mentioned already how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE this school? I’d be surprised if I haven’t because I usually find a way to promote Blackstone regardless of the situation I’m in. If you asked me ten years ago if I’d ever find myself singing the praises of a public charter school, I’d likely say no. But after I worked with this school on a fundraising consulting project, I offered my volunteer services. That turned out to be board service, because that’s what I’m good at.

That was nine years ago. For the last three years (with a little extra due to COVID), I’ve also served as board chair.

The mission of Blackstone is “to build a strong community of learners and leaders.” Blackstone wants students to emerge from school with a strong sense of themselves as lifelong learners and a responsibility and investment in the wider world.  Our amazing education team (and I mean team is in the school’s DNA) has created a college prep school that serves overwhelmingly free and reduced lunch BIPOC teens.

Our community partnerships run deep and all students are involved in community throughout their high school life. I could go on and on, but this blog was to be about stepping down.

It was hard to let go, but it had to be done.

When I came onto the board, one of the projects I worked on was revising the bylaws. And in that revision we added a sunset provision for board members after three, three year terms.

We did that to create space for refreshing the board, with an eye to recruiting alum (we now have three on the board) and to diversifying our board members. While I’m otherwise agnostic on term limits, they were the right thing for this board.

Two years ago, two of our founding board members were reaching their limits. That was after we had started the clock fresh when we adopted the proposed bylaws. Because they were founding board members with ties predating the school formation itself, we adopted a bylaws amendment suspending term limits for board members with distinguished service. We created an emeritus position which we bestowed on these two members.

And this fall my term was coming to an end.

During my tenure on the board and also as board chair, our school reached some pretty big milestones. I participated in two recertifications of our charter and lead the team which managed two 360 performance reviews of our co-directors. I already mentioned revising the bylaws.

Our board approved doubling the student body which required renovating our half of the building. We were one of five schools studied over four years that appear in Schooling for Critical Consciousness: Engaging Black and Latinx Youth in Analyzing, Navigating, and Challenging Racial Injustice. We approved the purchase of the house next door when it came on the market to create more quiet meeting space and space for our administrative team. And just this past year we approved the purchase of our school building.

The end of my term comes at a time of still amazing change for the school. Most significantly, our educators have been digging deep into the meaning of student mastery through a significant multiyear grant from the Barr Foundation (I’m stepping down before all of that has work has been rolled out). And we are up again this year for recertification.

So there were many reasons for me to ask for that emeritus title.

But it was my time to step off the board.

I felt that it was extremely important that I not make granting an emeritus position a routine practice, defeating the intent of term limits. And it was time for new leadership to replace me. So after careful consideration, I explained my thinking to our leadership team and asked that the governance committee consider my request not to ask me to be emeritus. Which they did.

So Monday was my last board meeting as a board member. It was bittersweet conducted as it was over Zoom — I miss the hugs I would have given and received.

I wished I had prepared something terribly profound to say. But after many thank yous to me, it was I who thanked the school for letting me come along for a beautiful ride of over a decade of connection with Blackstone (since I first consulted).

I’m not going away. I hope to pull together that advisory council we’ve been talking about all these years but never got to. I’ll keep promoting this amazing place. But I’ll miss routinely walking down that college acceptance hallway each spring and admiring our student achievements and all the school scholarship offers.

But I know that the board is in good hands.

Time to consider my next board adventure.

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