June 2022 Board Update

After six consecutive meetings online, the Board of Trustees returned for an in-person meeting on the School campus June 2–4, 2022. It was wonderful for Trustees and administrators to be together in one room again. And to meet new Trustees we’d only seen in “Zoomland.”

We opened each day with readings and sharing inspiration from our individual prayerful work supporting Principia. The readings and metaphysical sharing focused on multiple themes, including unity, the allness of good, rising higher to lift thought above the fog of worldly confusion, and recognizing the “boundless basis” that serves as Principia’s foundation.

An underlying theme for the meeting was “care”—genuine care and support between Trustees and administrators, care for our students, and compassionate and thoughtful care for faculty, staff, parents, and alumni.

Student Care
We spent a significant amount of time receiving updates and information from the dedicated administrators caring for our students. As we welcome students from more diverse backgrounds and continue to support individual healthcare and wholeness choices for students and faculty, the Board is working closely with administrators to thoughtfully consider how to best support our Christian Science nurses and practitioners while enabling appropriate access to medical care for those who choose to not rely on Christian Science for healing

International Student Care
A highlight of our meetings was having a working lunch session with international students from the School and College as well as the directors of the international student programs on each campus. The students—from Argentina, Kenya, Nigeria, and Rwanda—shared insights, observations, and opportunities for improving the international student experience at the Upper School and College.

We were inspired and motivated by these student stories and enjoyed learning more about their individual and collective experiences. The students and international program directors spoke frankly about current needs, and we look forward to supporting the administration’s efforts to address concerns.

Initial Revisions to Principia’s 23 Policies
The Ad Hoc 23 Policy Review Committee, which includes administrators and Trustees, has met seven times since February. The committee’s initial work focused on incorporating contemporary language reflecting gender equity. As the result of this work, the committee proposed to the Board and the Board approved an initial set of editing changes to seven of the 23 Policies. (View red-line document showing changes to Policies 3, 5, 13, 14, 16, 17, and 19.)

As previously announced, the committee is taking a deliberative and iterative approach to this foundational work. There is no timetable or deadline for the committee’s work, and we expect that changes will continue to come over time. As such, the committee will continue its work this summer, prayerfully considering each step in the process and bringing edits to the full Board as they are ready for Board approval. Principia’s Policies were originally ratified by the Board of Trustees in 1944 then modified in 1962 and 1983. Comments from the community about Policy revisions can be sent to the committee via 23policyreview@principia.edu

The fiscal year 2023 budget was presented and approved, with an operational expense budget of $58.3 million—75 percent of which will come from our endowments for an expected draw rate of 6.7 percent. This budget represents a collaborative and disciplined process that was led by the two campus business officers and the budget director in conjunction with the Board Finance/Facilities Committee. For the first time, the Board approved new parameters allowing for growth in revenues to offset a modest growth in expenses, supporting the capacity for continued growth on both campuses.

Based on success meeting the annual giving goals for multiple years, the Board approved an increased annual giving goal of $2.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year—an increase of almost 50 percent over previous years. The Board expressed gratitude for the exceptional work of our fundraising team and the generosity of Principia’s alumni and friends. This is more evidence of devotion and “care” in action, blessing our students by providing enriching opportunities in abundance.

The Board passed a resolution acknowledging the extraordinarily generous gift of Cordstrap, the Dutch company donated to Principia by Fred van Eck more than 20 years ago. Cordstrap was recently sold, and Principia’s share of the sale, $155 million, is now in a restricted endowment per Mr. van Eck’s instructions. (Like most donor endowment gifts, that amount cannot be spent, but we are allowed to spend its investment earnings to support Principia for generations to come.) At a 7 percent draw rate (the maximum allowed by the donor), the $155 million could generate approximately $11 million annually for Principia which would replace the $10–12 million a year in dividends Cordstrap gave Principia during the past several years.  So the net effect of the Cordstrap sale is to “lock in” or stabilize the flow of those funds to Principia.

As a follow-up to the Board resolution recognizing this gift, we are working with the administration to consider how to best recognize Fred van Eck’s remarkable donation. We look forward to sharing more information about this in the future.

Operations vs. Policy Discussion
The Board and the Administrative Executive Committee members participated in a workshop to address and clarify lines of responsibility. The question participants worked to clarify was “When should an issue come to the Board for a decision/approval and when should the decision be made by the administration?”

This exercise was productive and progressive for all as we welcome new Trustees and our new Chief Executive Barbara Blackwell. Clarifying roles across the organization is a shared priority as we solidify goals with increased cooperation across the institution.

Bill Simon Field House
Meeting on the School campus offered a welcome chance to tour the Bill Simon Field House now under construction. It was an exciting and joy-filled opportunity to witness the progress and abundantly good potential in this project. We look forward to supporting the building’s grand opening this fall and so appreciate the care and hard work being poured into this developing activity. We are certain it will bless our students and Principia for many decades.

Welcomes and Farewells
As previously announced, we welcomed three new Trustees: Todd Boyman (US’83, C’87), Ian Forber-Pratt (US’98, C’08), and David Walters (US’83). Being in-person also provided an important opportunity to recognize the service of outgoing Trustees Chuck Lindahl and Bob Macdonald who each served on the Board for nine years. We cannot overstate their enormous contributions to Principia.

The Board also recognized and thanked Interim Head of School Tami Gavaletz for her exemplary service leading the School this past year. Incoming Head of School Dr. Merry Sorrells takes the helm on July 1 but has already been working closely with Tami and other School administrators for several months. We are grateful for this seamless transition.

And the Board recognized and thanked Scott Schneberger for his excellent service to Principia as Acting Chief Executive during the previous nine months.  Barbara Blackwell, the incoming Chief Executive, will start on July 1. 

Other Board Business
The newly elected Board Executive Committee members are: Dr. Scott Schneberger (Chair), Bruce Bond (Vice Chair), Mindy Savides (Treasurer), Steve DeWindt (Secretary), and Trish Sarkisian (Member-at-Large). 

Looking Ahead
We know that some faculty and staff are on summer break, and we wish you much rest and rejuvenation. Others are continuing their regular schedule of dedicated work supporting the students arriving on the campuses in August and supporting Summer Session and two reunions at the College. Many, many thanks to every one of you for what you are doing to ensure a strong start to another progressive academic year in 2022–2023. Your good work and deep care for Principia will bless everyone.

Help us to help each other, Lord,
Each other’s cross to bear;
Let each his friendly aid afford,
And feel his brother’s care.

(Christian Science Hymnal, Hymn 105)