AIS-R Governance & Trustees
As a non-profit, private and independent school, AIS-R serves the local and expatriate community in Riyadh and is licensed to operate by the Ministry of Education. AIS-R is governed by a seven-member “self-perpetuating” Board of Trustees who serve as volunteers to represent the entire AIS-R community and ensure long-term viability of the school. The Board chooses and appoints new Trustees through an extensive vetting process as they seek “strategic” community partners to uphold the school’s Mission, develop school policy, and meet the specific requirements of the Ministry of Education. As the most essential requirements for membership are strategic expertise and field experience, the Board “appoints” specialists to fill specific roles as leaders in finance, security, legal, governmental relations, etc., from the broad Riyadh community. The AIS-R governance model is progressive in nature and therefore does not follow a traditional, antiquated model of non-specialized “elected” members to serve as political, interest, culture or issue-based constituents. Instead, the Board seeks to select and balance the membership with experts and specialists through the appointment of AIS-R parents, former AIS-R parents, AIS-R Alum, community members and a (non-voting) US Embassy representative. Because the Trustees focus their collective efforts on strategic and long-term stability and viability issues of the school, (e.g. policy, finance, safety, security, legal, etc.) they hire a Superintendent to manage and operate the day-to-day business of the school through AIS-R policy and educational expertise. The AIS-R Board of Trustees and the Superintendent work closely with the Ministries, including the Ministry of Education, to ensure that AIS-R upholds all ministerial expectations for membership, financial compliance and licensing. AIS-R Trustees do not get involved in day-to-day operational or parent-related issues as that is the work of the Superintendent and the AIS-R Leadership Team. The Superintendent’s role is to be “mission-driven” to lead the educational program of the school and build community capacity for learning. All current year parents, teachers, staff, administrators and Board members are considered registered members of the AIS-R Association and are invited to participate in a range of community events, forums, activities, surveys, etc., to ensure that school continues on a path of modern learning. Parent communication is clearly outlined here: Communication Chart: How Parents Share Questions or Concerns at AIS-R.
Effective School Governance
By Peter D. Relic, Former president, National Association of Independent Schools
If we did not always understand the importance of governance in the world, we certainly do today, especially with all the examples of bad, ineffective governance, including nations, corporations, and universities. For us in non-profit, independent schools, we hope we are learning the lessons well because our children’s future, our future, depend on getting it right.
The experience of more than one thousand independent schools throughout the world in the past forty years, including American international schools, provides clear, emphatic guidelines for effective governance. We have embodied this knowledge in principles of best practice, embraced by the National Association of Independent School in Washington, DC and by virtually every regional association of international schools in every part of the globe. We know that the most effective schools are governed by boards that are policy boards, visionary strategic boards. We have learned that the truly dynamic boards know how to develop goals and objectives, plans to reach those goals, and all the steps to implement those plans. The best boards are visionary, understanding and accepting the challenge of stewardship for the school today and into the future. The research and the literature show the way to govern schools effectively.
Conversely, experience indicates that the weakest boards are operational, with individual trustees intruding in the daily operation of the school, becoming directly involved with personnel or curricular or management issues that should be handled by the administration and faculty.
There is another key component to effective governance: the knowledge and cooperation of the rest of the school community - teachers and staff, parents, students. If everyone does not understand what a strategic policy board is doing, the pressures and demands of the community too often deflect the board from its task and focus. Perhaps this article will highlight for members of the school community some of what the policy board should do, and should not do.
Good practice requires the board to be clear in adhering to the mission of the school, and creating the means for everyone else to be consistent with the mission. The board’s goals and objectives are the foundation for guiding the school in the continued pursuit of the mission. The school’s strategic plan and its vision for the future, emanating from the board’s commitment, involves the entire school in actively living the school’s mission. The board selects and supports the school head in whom is vested the authority and responsibility for the daily management of the school. Together the board and head develop goals and objectives to meet the priorities and needs of the school, and the board holds the head accountable through annual written evaluation (and itself as a board, again through written annual evaluation) for progress toward attaining the goals.
The board is responsible for the financial well-being of the school, including the operating annual and capital budgets, and like no other part of the school community, the board in its charge of stewardship is responsible for the financial strength of the school well into the future through guarding capital assets, fund raising and endowments. Today’s board cares about today; the visionary board cares about the future too, working for this year and striving to create the vision and the means to achieving the vision for the next twenty years and more.
The effective board does much more: the members are always learning, always prepared for each meeting; they keep board committees focused and real, meeting each committee’s charge; they keep accurate records of its meeting and deliberations; they assure compliance with local and national regulations and laws and minimize exposure to legal action; they strive to compose the board to reflect the perspectives and expertise of the community to achieve the mission of the school; they each contribute to the school’s development program, and support and promote the school through their work and presence.
Does the individual trustee represent one child or a constituency? Emphatically not. Board members represent the best interests of every child, every constituency. A vital part of this commitment is the understanding with parents that all matters relating to what occurs daily at the school need to be referred to the teacher, the division principal, the head of school. The strategic policy board understands and holds accountable the administration for the operation of the school.
This brief article perhaps raises as many questions as it addresses. In my continuing association with the school, I would be pleased to address other issues. I am particularly impressed that the board of the AIS-R has striven for many years to be an effective strategic policy board. I am honored to assist in that continuing effort.
The AIS-R Association
The AIS-R Association is an organization of registered community members (parents, educators, Board members) organized for the purpose of supporting a non-profit school for children of the highest standards possible within the parameters established by the Saudi Arabian Government, in an international atmosphere using a curriculum based upon the educational system and accreditation affiliation of the United States of America. The AIS-R Trustees represent the Association in the long-term strategic development of the school.
All current registered community members are encouraged to attend school meetings, assemblies, celebrations, Eagle Community Exchanges, Parent-Teacher-Student-Organization (PTSO) Coffees, etc., as a means to stay informed and provide the school’s leadership with feedback, which is an important component of AIS-R’s ongoing school-improvement process. As such, a formal presentation is made to the Association once per year at the “Eagle Community Exchange.”
NEASC-CIS Accreditation & IB Authorization
AIS-R is accredited by New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the Council of International Schools (CIS). AIS-R is authorized to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma. AIS-R was also awarded CIS’s Global Citizenship Certification for its commitment to developing global learners
NEASC states that accreditation, " indicates that a school meets high standards of institutional quality through an ongoing, independent, objective process of peer review. The accreditation process provides an opportunity for the school to reflect in depth and critically on its programs, review its Guiding Statements, and assess its alignment with researched-based Standards of best educational practice. The “Award of Accreditation” recognizes the quality of the evaluated school, reassures parents, teachers, universities, and governments that the school provides a high quality learning experience, and results in sustained school improvement and a roadmap for transformation.”
As a leader in the field of school evaluation and accreditation worldwide, CIS “provides a unique international accreditation with a focus on student learning and global citizenship. The quality and rigour of CIS International Accreditation is recognized by ministries, departments of education, and universities around the world as demonstration of a school’s commitment to high quality international education.”
The ES Commission of the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges first accredited AIS-R in July 1985 and then again in April 1993. In 1996 AIS-R was accredited by NEASC for the first time and conducted a preparatory visit in January of 2001. At this time, it was decided that AIS-R would seek joint accreditation with NEASC and ECIS. The joint NEASC/ECIS Team visited AIS-R in October 2002, and in November 2002 AIS-R was awarded a ten-year accreditation status by both agencies. In June 2003, AIS-R’s ECIS accreditation was transferred to the Council of International Schools (CIS), effective July 1, 2003. In November 2004, AIS-R submitted its Two-Year Report to NEASC/CIS and received notification that AIS-R continued to remain in good standing with the accreditation process. In September 2007, AIS-R submitted its Five-Year Report to NEASC/CIS in preparation for the Five-Year Visit, which took place in May 2008. In March 2011, AIS-R hosted the preparatory visit team from NEASC/CIS and received approval to proceed with an expedited Self-Study in August 2011. The formal self-study process took place from August 2011 to October 2012, at the end of which the Ten-Year Report was submitted. The joint NEASC/CIS Visiting Team came to AIS-R in November 2012, and the accreditation status of AIS-R was confirmed by both NEASC and CIS. In November of 2018, AIS-R hosted the CIS/NEASC Preparatory Evaluation Visit and was granted the ability to move onto the Self-Study process. The CIS Team Evaluation/NEASC ACE External Visit were completed virtually in November of 2020 and a five year re-accreditation status was awarded to AIS-R by both agencies in January 2021.
The information below highlights the commendations, recommendations and the visitors’ important observations and constructive feedback.
Council of International School’s (CIS) Highlights: Of the 36 re-accreditation standards from CIS, the visitors rated us as either met (20 = 55%) or exceeded (16 = 45%) on all standards; there were no ratings that reflected below the standard or any problematic issues related to our learning or operational processes. In essence, AIS-R's rating aligned with CIS on 31 standards and CIS rated us even higher in several areas to the top category of “exceeded.” In addition, CIS provided us an overwhelming 22 Commendations, of which, 7 were Major Commendations. We received minimal recommendations for next steps (as below):
- The leadership team and educational staff for AIS-R’s well-developed Virtual Learning Program, which is developmentally appropriate and includes peer connectivity and a school/life balance
- The school leadership team for ensuring that the guiding statements are used consistently as a reference point in decision-making and strategic planning.
- The school leadership team for putting into action the school definition of international/intercultural learning, both inside and beyond the classroom, as evidenced by the learning of students and the awarding of the CIS Global Citizenship Certification.
- The board and superintendent for the review and update of the comprehensive board policy manual.
- The board and operations department for detailed written policies and effective procedures addressing standards of health, safety, and security.
- The leadership team for their design and implementation of personalized professional development pathways that further support faculty using different coaching methods and tools.
- The facilities and IT leadership teams for their efforts in ensuring that the quality of teaching and learning spaces and equipment propel the learning programs and fulfill AIS-R's mission.
- The IT department for their planning, implementation, and support of digital technologies that positively impact the school's distance learning plan and daily operations.
- The board develop a strategic timeline for the review of the guiding statements with particular focus on AIS-R's mission.
- The board articulates a board-development plan to focus on regular training and the orientation of new board members.
New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ (NEASC) Highlights: The NEASC Report highlighted AIS-R’s strengths as a school where the visitors overwhelmingly agreed with “all” 10 of AIS-R’s assessments of the ACE Learning Principles protocols. NEASC’s evaluation of AIS-R was rated as:.
- Conceptual Understanding - Developing - the visitors noted, "AIS-R is characterized by a student body that is positive, engaged, enthusiastic, and confident. Leveraging these positive attributes to enact processes and outcomes that result in a truly collaborative learning environment will be a critical element of AIS-R's Conceptual Understanding of learning."
- Commitment - Developing - the visitors noted, "The Board of Trustees and members of leadership indicate that they are ready to move the school forward in a sustainable manner that will result in improved learning experiences for the community. Further investment in all-staff engagement and collaboration in this process would be beneficial in helping to prioritize initiatives in a broader targeted school improvement plan."
- Capacity - Evident - the visitors noted, "(t)he school is well-resourced and is blessed with facilities that are designed to support exciting and innovative teaching and learning. The school is financially secure, with [emergency] reserves in place to counter serious and long-term economic disruption."
- Competence - Developing - the visitors noted, “(t)he Leadership Team and learning coaches are to be commended for their vision and drive, and for ably leading the change that the school has experienced to date”.
Feedback from the visitors specific to our AIS-R’s Three Major NEASC Learning Plans include:
- Inclusivity in the Modern Learning Environment - Given the importance of this initiative, learning leaders and the teaching staff continue to collaborate when setting goals and ensure that communication on all related processes is clear so that all can work toward a common purpose.
- Partnerships and Communication in a Modern Learning Community - AIS-R is also aware of the need to continuously evaluate current communication systems and approaches for effectiveness and efficiency.
- K-12 Continuum Alignment in a Modern Learning Environment - Develop a systematic approach to this process to involve all stakeholders to increase school-wide buy-in to systemic changes.