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InterContinental Hotel - Abu Dhabi

Rick Detwiler

Consultant on governance and boardsmanship; consultant to NESA on its Board Development Project.

Full Bio

RICK DETWILER has worked with school boards as head of five international schools over the past 25 years, including three NESA schools. Born and raised in upstate New York, Mr Detwiler earned his BA at Dartmouth followed by graduate work at Tufts and the University of Vermont.

Before joining the international school community in 1988, he was a US Navy officer, a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana, and for ten years, a teacher and principal in Vermont.

Mr Detwiler is married to his wife of 45 years, Sandi, a retired ESL teacher, and they have three grown children, all educated at international schools, and one of whom teaches at the American School of Doha.

Mr Detwiler has served as consultant to NESA on its Board Development Project, in conjunction with his work conducting board training and strategic planning workshops and policy review for international schools in NESA, Europe, Central America, and Africa.

In the past four years, he has worked with three dozen international schools, conducting over 50 retreats. His particular interest in board development lies in developing school board training experiences that are action-driven and individualized for the specific needs of the client school.

Overview of Trustees Institute

Building on the Foundations of Good Governance

Thursday, October 19 | Saturday, October 21 | Sunday, October 22

This year, the Board Trustee Development Institute has been designed around the framework of the NESA Board Development Project, a NESA initiative serving Trustees based on the NESA mission to facilitate sustainable and systemic school improvement at all levels of school operations. The Project has produced a "curriculum" and an evaluation instrument based on seven "essential questions," covering the full range of governance challenges and demands NESA schools' face.

During the FLC, we will address all seven essential questions, providing new Trustees with an overview of the role of the Board and a Board member, while addressing the needs of more experienced Trustees by prompting in-depth collaborative exploration of particular governance challenges participants are dealing with back home.

The goal of these focused sessions is to stimulate sharing among Trustees and Heads by providing an overview of proven practice cited in the literature and using prompts to guide the follow-up discussion among participants. Our intent is to make best use of the knowledge and experience in the room, as Board members share their perspectives and practices.

We have learned that Board members and Heads value that sharing time in particular as an opportunity to glean practical ideas from colleagues facing similar issues and the chance to form the beginnings of a network of resource people to consult and console well after the conference is over.

Please bring a laptop/notebook to the workshops to access worksheets and reference materials.

Institute Sessions/Topics

THURSDAY, OCT. 19: Building on the Foundations of Good Governance

Session 1 — Principles of Good Governance: The Foundations (Frame: NESA Module 1)
Participants will. . .

  • explore the principles of good governance as set forth by NAIS, BoardSource, and their school's accrediting agency.
  • acknowledge the importance of Policy, examine criteria of effective policies, and reflect on the usefulness of their own Policy Manual.
  • gauge the effectiveness of their school's governance vis à vis established characteristics of effective school boards.

Session 2 — Sustaining the Board and the Head: Getting Even Better (Frame: NESA Modules 3 & 4)
Participants will. . .

  • reflect on their own board's commitment to its own development by examining guidelines for recruitment, orientation, training, networking, goal-setting, and self-appraisal.
  • explore strategies for dealing with dysfunction on the board.
  • understand the roles and responsibilities of the board, individual board members, and the Director with particular attention to handling challenging issues in the relationship with the Director.


On Friday, board members are invited to attend other conference sessions in order to mix with other delegates and experience other workshops in the wider context of the NESA Conference, adding to their Governance Training a good blend of other relevant educational topics.

SATURDAY, OCT. 21: Doing It All - Fiduciary, Strategic and Generative Governance

Session 1 — The Fiduciary Obligation (Frame: NESA Modules 2 & 7)
Participants will explore a variety of practices to help fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities, for example:

  • employing an annual calendar of board reports;
  • identifying areas of high risk and conducting periodic, independent audits of those areas;
  • articulating the board's own operational protocols in a board protocol handbook;
  • maintaining a comprehensive board orientation manual, etc.

Participants will clarify their board's role in monitoring quality.

Session 2 — The Strategic Board: Moving Beyond Caretaking (Frame: NESA Module 6)
Participants will. . .

  • recognize the importance of three modes of governance work; Fiduciary, Strategic, and Generative, and identify strategies to employ all three.
  • understand strategic thinking as an ongoing board practice and articulate how it relates to meaningful and practical strategic planning.
  • examine Strategic Planning, identifying why it is so important and cautions to consider.

SUNDAY, OCT. 22: Board Operations and a "Deep Dive" Into YOUR Governance Issues

Session 1 — Board Operations: Practices That Work (Frame: NESA Modules 1 & 5)
Participants will . . .

  • share strategies that promote effective Board operations.
  • examine the role of Board officers with particular attention to the effective performance of the chair.
  • identify the merits and drawbacks of committee-based board operations
  • understand the difference between committees and task forces
  • examine guidelines for committee Terms of Reference.
  • explore norms for board operations through case studies portraying boards gone astray and then reflect on their board's norms and board culture.

Session 2 — The "Unconference": Diving Deep on YOUR Issues
Participants will have an opportunity to identify topics of particular interest and relevance to their own board experience and share perspectives and practices through a semi-structured "unconference" process.

NOTE: Please bring a laptop/notebook/smartphone to these sessions to access handouts.

Target Audience: Trustees/Board Members, Heads of School

Continuum Levels: 1, 2, 4 = Developing Awareness (curious about learning more, seeking to understand, information gathering) | Deepening Understanding (theory-based learning, investigating models, identifying experts) | Extending Implementation (reflecting, evaluating, modifying practice, improving skills)

NESA's Learning Continuum:

Learn more about how NESA plans Professional Learning


Save paper and effort where possible!

For your convenience, and to support our efforts in being "green", all handouts/files posted here have been notated with an A, B, C or D indicating the following:

(A) hardcopies needed at workshop
(B) electronic version on laptop is sufficient (for viewing during the workshop)
(C) required reading PRIOR to the workshop
(D) file not needed for workshop itself, but simply material of additional interest/reference

(B) W0. NESA Board Development Project Curriculum

(B) W1. BoardSource Twelve Principles of Governance That Power Exceptional Boards

(B) W2. Criteria for Board Policies

(B) W3. Worksheet - Policy Editing

(B) W4. Nine Characteristics of Effective School Boards RATE YOUR BOARD

(B) W5. Case Study The First Word in Succession is Success

(B) W6. Guidelines for International School New Board Member Orientation

(B) W7. Board RetreatTopics - The "Menu" of Choices

(B) W8. Board Self Assessment Guide

(B) W9. Case Study - Are We Working As A Team

(B) W10. Dysfunctional Levels in Nonprofit Boards and Organizations

(B) W11. Common Types of Broken Boards

(B) W12. Remedies for a ‘Fractured’ Board - ISM

(B) W13. Fiduciary Duties

(B) W14. Sharing Fiduciary duties

(B) W15. Monitoring School Quality

(B) W16. Generative/Strategic Thinking - an example

(B) W17. The Generative Mode of Governance - What Is It and How To Do It - summary

(B) W18. The Best Strategic Thinkers - 5 Sure Characteristics

(B) W19. Strategic Board Meetings

(B) W20. Strategic Plan Framework

(B) W21. Strategic Planning Action Plan Template

(B) W22. Leading to Change Making Strategic Planning Work

(B) W23. Sample Strategic Plan Board-level Decisions

(B) W24. Checklist of Criteria for Evaluating Strategic Priorities

(B) W25. Common Board Practices WORKSHEET

(B) W26 . NAIS Board Chair Evaluation

(B) W27. Guidelines for Board Committees

(B) W28. Sample Committee ToR Finance Committee

(B) W29. Sample Essential Agreements 2017 - How We Will Operate

(B) W30. The Unconference - Capturing the Knowledge

(D) R1. NAIS Principles of Good Practice Board of Trustees

(D) R2. Ten Basic Responsibiities of Non-Profit Boards

(D) R3. Policy Formulation vs Policy Implementation

(D) R4. 6 Characteristics of Effective Boards

(D) R5. Twenty-five Indicators of a High Performing International School Board

(D) R6. So you want to be a flags in board replacement

(D) R7. The Basics of Your Board’s Summer Retreat - ISM

(D) R8. The Board "Retreat" - Planning Guidesheet

(D) R9. NESA Self-Evaluation Instrument

(D) R10. Governance Committee The Care and Feeding of Your Board

(D) R11. NAIS Principles of Good Practice - Individual Trustees

(D) R12. Sample Job Description for an International School Board Member

(D) R13. What Makes a Good Board Member

(D) R14. The Role of International School Board Officers

(D) R15. Effective Board Chair – Executive Director Relationships/ Not About Roles! Common Good Vermont Blog

(D) R16. NAIS Principles of Good Practice -Head of School

(D) R17. From the Lawyers ... Legal Duties of an International School Board of Governors

(D) R18. Sample Board Annual Calendar

(D) R19. School Board Meeting Checklist

(D) R20. Taming the Information Monster – Enough Already!

(D) R21. The Big-Picture Board; Creating a Culture for Generative Thinking

(D) R22. Using Generative Governance Principles

(D) R23. The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy-Stanford Social Innovation Review

(D) R24. In the Boardroom, Culture Counts - Publications and Resources - ASAE

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