09/02/2015 - 16:41

Business acumen helps school boards

09/02/2015 - 16:41

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Independent schools across the state are benefiting from the experience some of Perth’s most prominent business leaders have brought to their boards, providing greater diversity and structure to the decision-making process.

Business acumen helps school boards

Independent schools across the state are benefiting from the experience some of Perth’s most prominent business leaders have brought to their boards, providing greater diversity and structure to the decision-making process.

Among them are resources company chief executives, corporate finance heads, politicians and senior professional services executives.

In addition, a significant number of school council members are senior executives in the tertiary education sector.

University of Western Australia vice-chancellor Paul Johnson has been appointed to the council of Christ Church Grammar School this year, joining another new addition and fellow tertiary executive, Jeanette Hacket, who was vice-chancellor at Curtin University until 2013.

Christ Church council chairman John Poynton told Business News that a significant percentage of Christ Church students went on to study at UWA or Curtin, and it helped for the institutions to better understand each other.

He said the composition of a school board must reflect society in diversity, although members did need to have a certain level of expertise.

“Balance of skills, experience, age, gender and background, all of those things are really important,” Mr Poynton said.

The school’s council also comprises individuals with backgrounds in science, medicine, law and private equity.

Another UWA connections is pro-chancellor Penny Flett, who chairs the college council at Methodist Ladies’ College, and is also chief executive at Brightwater Care Group.

Senior executives in the resources and mining services industry also feature heavily on school boards in the state.

Poseidon Nickel chief executive David Singleton sits on the council at Methodist Ladies’ College, along with Transfield Services chair Diane Smith-Gander.

Wesfarmers finance director Terry Bowen is on the Scotch College Council, while Programmed Maintenance Services managing director Christopher Sutherland chairs the council at Trinity College.

BC Iron managing director Morgan Ball sits on the council of Presbyterian Ladies College, where he joins ASX-listed Euroz’s executive chairman and managing director Andrew McKenzie.

Also in the corporate finance and private equity sphere is Macquarie Group executive director Grant Robson, who is on the council at Hale School.

Christ Church’s 2015 council also comprises private equity players NWQ Capital Management managing partner Jonathan Horton and Sirona Capital managing director Matthew McNeilly.

Mr Poynton said school councils were really no different to other boards, as they required a strategy or business plan, and then needed to monitor the performance of the executives against the plan.

“Any institution needs to know what it stands for and have a business plan or a mission about what it’s actually trying to achieve,” he said.

“So I guess from a corporate background you can bring a strategic focus.

“Part of my role is to refresh the current plan with the help of the council and external advisers.”

As part of this, Mr Poynton implemented a maximum number of three terms for board members.

“My ethos for these things is to move as quickly as you can to implement your own thoughts and views, and then make sure you’ve got a good succession plan so that you can hand the reins over to someone as equally as committed and move on,” Mr Poynton said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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