On February 20, 2020, Balmoral Hall Parent Association (BHPA) was fortunate to have Board of Governors Chair Marilyn R. Robinson join us for a fireside chat in Aikins House.
After attendees enjoyed a lovely luncheon, Marilyn presented BHPA President Kellie Damphousse with a Certificate of Appreciation. She stated that the Board is always amazed when Kellie reports on the activities of the Parent Association. She mentioned the delightful Yahoo BBQ, the fun Grade Parties for parents, the enlightening Speaker Series, the inaugural BHPA Nine & Wine Golf Classic, the thoughtful Staff Appreciation Tea, the beautiful Holiday Decorating, and the highly organized Nearly New Uniform Store as highlights to date. She also thanked the Parent Association for its mobilization of the parent community to advocate for themselves and the school with respect to the proposed traffic changes in the Wolseley neighbourhood. She ended with the oft-repeated axiom, "If you want something done, ask a busy person."
Marilyn then spoke about how she sees the BHPA and the Board of Governors in relation to the Head of Balmoral Hall School and her team. She visualizes these entities as being a circle, with the centre filled by our girls — the reasons we all do what we do. This was a powerful way of delineating the relationship and mission of the three organizations.
As Chair, Marilyn had been invited to speak about the role and responsibilities of the Board of Governors, as well as its relationship with the BHPA. She began by outlining the structure of the Board of Governors. It is currently composed of 15 members, and, as dictated by its bylaws, it appoints the President of the BHPA as a member, demonstrating their close relationship. Right now, 11 members of the Board are parents, four are alumnae, and two are other members of the school community. All are passionate about the school and our girls. The Board strives to have a diversity of skills and professions. In addition, the Head of School is an ex-officio member of the Board and its committees, completing the circle Marilyn referred to earlier.
Marilyn went on to explain that the work of the Board includes strategic oversight, financial oversight, policy development, and trust.
This is accomplished through five committees that keep members very busy:
Infrastructure — Responsible for facilities, technology, and the riverbank usage working group.
Finance — In charge of financial oversight, compliance with regulatory matters, the annual review of business policies and procedures, risk management, the appointment of an external auditor, receiving the auditor's report, and approving the budget, tuition fees, and salary increases.
Governance & Nominating — Oversees governance, board policies and mandates, recruitment, the orientation and development of new Board members, and retention of the Head of School.
Strategic Planning — Ensures that the school has an active strategic planning process and is operating in accordance with achieving its vision, mission, and values.
Advancement — Supports the fundraising strategies of the school's Philanthropy department through their own personal financial contributions, as well as by encouraging donations from the school community.
Why is this work important to the Parent Association?
The Board makes sure that the school's mission is relevant and vital to the community it serves — your families. It continually monitors the success of the school in fulfilling its mission. Results matter!
The Board assures the financial stability of the school, which is a not-for-profit organization. It safeguards the integrity of the financial statements, oversees and approves operating budgets, salary increases, and tuition fees to provide ongoing value to parents and to provide an exceptional educational experience for our girls, your daughters. The school must have educators, staff, and facilities to promote inspiration, excellence, and curiosity.
The Board establishes a foundation of partnership, trust, and respect with the Head of School. The Board can, and should, be a source of positive support and energy. The Head of School is accountable for overall operations, and she is the only person who speaks on behalf of Balmoral Hall. When issues arise, such as the recent walk/bike project, the Head, Board, and BHPA work together. The creation of Benidickson Centre for Arts & Design is another example of how the BH circle combined to benefit our girls. More than six years ago, it was determined by Mrs. Kamins, her staff, and the Board that "facilities are the second teacher in the classroom" and that they were needed to support the developing STEAM curriculum. Zoning, permits, and community engagement were required before design plans and construction contracts could commence. Fundraising was essential, as the school receives no funding for capital projects from the province. The BHPA generously donated and encouraged matching funds from the rest of the school community, which was sincerely appreciated. We all worked together to make the Benidickson Centre a reality for our girls and will no doubt have similar successes in the future.
What does the Board need from the BHPA?
Marilyn was unequivocal in stating that it needs our continued enthusiasm, passion, and energy to create an environment where everyone feels involved and appreciated. She repeated that the BHPA currently does an incredible job of building a strong and knowledgeable parent community that supports the leadership of the school, so more of the same is in order. Indeed, we all have important roles to play to ensure our girls have a premium learning experience that positions them well for the outside world.
After these remarks, Marilyn opened the floor for questions. Topics ranged from strategic planning, tuition levelling, operational audits, the province's review of education, school capacity, contingency funds, and infrastructure processes to vaccinations. All queries were answered pragmatically. Past Chair Nancy Cipryk '86 and Head of School Joanne Kamins were able to add colour to many of Marilyn's responses.
On behalf of the BHPA Executive, Council, and all members, I extend deep appreciation to Marilyn, the Board of Governors, and Joanne for their kind words, collaboration, and transparency. If we continue to see ourselves as a circle of trust, we will surely succeed in our goals for our girls!