February 2023 Board Meeting Update
The Board of Trustees had a very fruitful, informative winter board meeting discussing and advancing important issues, including campus security, long-range planning, public funding, the pilot admissions program, student and faculty resources, ways Principia can serve the Cause of Christian Science, and updating Principia's 23 Policies.
The Board of Trustees gathered for a three-day meeting on the School campus February 23–25. The bulk of our sessions were held in the Jack Eyerly Character Lab in the Bill Simon Field House. It was a treat to be in this beautiful new space overlooking the impressive performance court where most of us participated in the building’s January grand opening celebration.
We also had the opportunity to spend time in the School academic building. On Thursday, we thoroughly enjoyed lunch with Middle and Upper School students in the Dining Room, then dinner with School faculty in House Hall. On Friday, we had lunch with the School Leadership Team and dinner with the College Senior Leadership Team. Meeting with students and those who connect with them on campus is invaluable.
A highlight was a presentation from the School's entire fifth-grade class on their proposals for showcasing sustainability across Principia. Their creative ideas included a moss wall, hydroponic towers for growing plants, pedaling charging stations for the dorms, and solar panels for Simon Field House. The students presented the costs for these ideas and their calculations of payoff periods. It was impressive.
All members of the Administrative Executives Committee (AEC) joined the Board for our regular reports and updates from administrators, Board committee reports, and question-and-answer sessions based on information provided in the Board Book distributed before the meeting. The Board is exceedingly grateful for a harmonious working relationship with Chief Executive Barbara Blackwell and all the AEC members.
Each morning, our meetings began with readings and the sharing of inspiration resulting from our daily metaphysical support for Principia—a primary responsibility as Trustees. Following the discovery of a weapon in Lower School the week before our meeting, some of the readings focused on specific support for Principia’s students. We took comfort from this citation in Isaiah: “. . . great shall be the peace of thy children” (54:13). Hymn 475 offered a beautiful treatment for all Principians: “Forget not who you are, O child of God, / For God demands of you reflection pure; / Your heritage is goodly, and your home, / In Spirit's warm embrace, is safe, secure (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 475:1).
School Parent Security Seminar
On Thursday evening, following our first day of meetings and discussions on campus security, Trustees attended the School security seminar held for parents. We were grateful to learn more about the fall security training that took place for all faculty and staff and about the plans for ongoing security upgrades going forward.
Long-range Planning and Master Planning
In preparation for launching a new strategic planning process, Chief Executive Barbara Blackwell and COO/CFO Tom Nickell gave a presentation on developing a comprehensive plan for Principia’s next 15 to 20 years. We also received an update from Christner Architects on the master planning process the firm is currently leading on both campuses. This is important, exciting work, and we are grateful to all the task force members and community members participating in the process.
Following extensive study and evaluation, the administration requested Board approval allowing Principia to restore participation in public funding opportunities. At this meeting, the Board voted in favor of the proposal, allowing Principia to pursue prudent involvement with state and federal loan, grant, and scholarship programs for College students; public grants supporting faculty and student research; and other public funding programs.
It is understood that the administration will avoid participating in any program that would compromise Principia’s ability to operate in accord with Principia’s Purpose and Policies. For historical context, this vote restores the previous policy on public funding that former Principia President Dr. David K. Andrews and the Board of Trustees announced in February 1968.
Restoring the opportunity for students to use public funds for paying educational expenses at Principia is a significant enhancement for recruiting and supporting students at the College. In addition, restoring the policy allows faculty members to use federal research grants directly rather than relying on other institutions to oversee our research. This will also support and extend student research opportunities.
Legal developments by Congress and the United States Supreme Court significantly mitigate concerns that participating in federal and state funding programs would interfere with Principia’s commitment to and practice of Christian Science. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 prohibits federal and state governments from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion.
Timing for these changes depends on how quickly government applications can be completed and approved, among other variables. The administration will keep the community informed as these details develop.
Pilot Admissions Program Survey and Religious Faith Questionnaire
Head of School Merry Sorrells provided updates on the School’s community survey and research on the implementation and impact of the pilot admissions program for new students from a range of faith backgrounds. The College shared early findings from a questionnaire administered to employees and students in the fall to develop an understanding of the faith experiences of all community members.
Ad Hoc Policy Review Committee Update
The Ad Hoc Policy Review Committee, which includes School and College administrators and Trustees, presented an update on their work. The committee continues to meet and discuss updating the Policies, with the expectation of presenting another round of edited Policies for a vote at the June Board meeting. Last June, the Board voted to make changes to several Policies that incorporated contemporary language reflecting gender equity in Policies 3, 5, 13, 14, 16, 17, and 19. The committee continues to take a deliberative and iterative approach to this important, foundational work. Principia’s Policies were originally ratified by the Board of Trustees in 1944 and then modified in 1962 and 1983. Comments from the community about Policy revisions can be sent to the committee via firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are immensely pleased that Principia is demonstrating progress—a law of God—in many areas: widening our embrace, strengthening our understanding of Christian Science, improving our administrative services and procedures, and planning for a long, robust, Principia future. Thank you for supporting Principia’s progress with all you do every day with dedication, love, and joy.