June 2023 Board Meeting Update

The Board of Trustees met on the School campus June 8–10, 2023. We began each day with readings and the sharing of ideas gleaned from our individual prayerful work in support of Principia’s progress.

The readings and inspirational sharing focused on recognizing and celebrating all the good demonstrated throughout the recently completed academic year. Some of the ideas shared include: “Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good; . . . And shall set us in the way of his steps (Psalms 85:12, 13). “All substance, intelligence, wisdom, being, immortality, cause, and effect belong to God” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 275).

Pilot Program and Visiting Professionals
After receiving formal assessments of the pilot admissions program, the Board voted to drop the designation “pilot program” as Principia moves forward with admitting values-aligned students who do not have a background in Christian Science. In 2019, the Trustees authorized “enlarging the tent” while “strengthening the stakes” through this program.

Evidence of positive impact across the institution is strong, and we are grateful to see this outreach continuing. Students from a diversity of backgrounds are blessing and being blessed by Principia as we widen our embrace and continue fulfilling our mission to serve the Cause of Christian Science in ways that are relevant for today. Currently, less than a quarter of the students enrolled on each campus have been admitted through the pilot program.

In the same spirit of letting Principia’s light shine and attracting the talent needed to operate exceptional educational programs, the Board authorized the administration to determine which open positions must be filled by Christian Scientists and which may be filled by the best available values-aligned candidates. HR and the campus heads will continue to vet applicants carefully to find those who can best contribute to Principia and support our spiritually based educational environment.

When hiring faculty or coaches who do not identify as Christian Scientists in recent years, the positions have been designated “Visiting Professionals.” Currently, 22 faculty and coaches are “Visiting Professionals” at the School, and three coaches are in this category at the College. Moving forward, Principia will continue to recruit the best values-aligned candidates—with a continued preference for Christian Scientists—but will no longer use the “Visiting Professional” title.

Revisions to Principia Policies
The Ad Hoc Policy Review Committee, which includes administrators and Trustees, presented revised wording for Policies 4, 15, 16, and 17. The Board approved new versions of these four Policies at this meeting. (View document showing the previous and new versions of these Policies.) These revisions align our institutional governing Policies with the direction we’re headed. We are grateful to the committee for this important, ongoing work.

Principia’s Policies were originally written and approved by the Board of Trustees in 1944 and modified in 1962 and 1983. Last June, based on the Policy Review Committee’s work, the Board voted to make changes to Policies 3, 5, 13, 14, 16, 17, and 19, incorporating contemporary language to reflect gender equity. (View last June’s changes.) The committee continues to take a deliberative and iterative approach to this foundational work, and additional updates are expected to the Policies.

While they are in the process of being revised, the latest versions of all 23 Policies can be found online. Comments from the community about Policy revisions can be sent to the committee via 23policyreview@principia.edu

The 2023–2024 budget was approved as presented by the administration. This budget represents a collaborative and comprehensive process that was led by the two campus business officers and the budget director in conjunction with the Board Finance/Facilities Committee.

The new budget increases our net draw by $2.5 million over the FY23 actual results to support growth for the next three years. While it increases the amount of funding provided to cover expenses, the budget also commits to increasing revenues and productivity to move Principia toward sounder financial footing for the years ahead.

Investing in our people was the top priority. The single biggest increase in expenses for this new budget—$3.6 million—is in wages and salaries for current employees. In addition, nearly $2 million is going toward paying for the additional retirement and health benefits that began this January. The budget also reflects funding for additional employee training and upskilling.

The budget prioritizes bolstering admissions marketing to support enrollment growth, strengthening our Christian Science stakes by investing in spiritual life, enhancing student care, and modernizing Principia-wide systems. Increased funding is needed to hire new teachers for the expanding Middle School program. Beyond support for these exciting, progressive steps, many areas of the budget were increased to also keep up with inflated costs of food, energy, student wages, and various contracted services. 

The capital budget is decreasing at this time as we continue funding projects already approved but hold off on new projects until master planning and strategic planning are further along.

The Board approved the administration’s request to move annual budget approval for the following fiscal year from the spring meeting to the winter Board meeting, beginning with the February 2024 meeting. Going forward, a preliminary annual budget will be presented each year at the fall Board meeting.

Master Planning Discussion
Christner Architects, the firm leading our master-planning process, provided an update on the long-range planning that took place on both campuses from October 2022 through last month. It was exciting to review various options for the campuses and envision future possibilities as informed by community stakeholders. We look forward to hearing about the next steps in planning for the campuses.

Belonging and Mattering Statement Ratification
The Board ratified the Principia-wide Belonging and Mattering Statement drafted by a dual-campus committee which met about 20 times during the past academic year. Stakeholders on both campuses provided input through four Town Hall meetings held online this spring. The Board wholeheartedly supports this institution-wide Belonging and Mattering statement in defining Principia as an inclusive, welcoming, nonjudgmental community that demonstrates “Love in Action.”

Farewells and Welcomes
The Board recognized and celebrated outgoing Trustees Mindy Savides, Steve Shaper, and Bruce Bond, although Mindy and Steve will continue as Trustees until just before our next Board meeting in early November. We are immensely grateful for their collective contributions to Principia.

We also hosted a lunch honoring outgoing College President John Williams and Chief Investment Officer Howard Berner, who is retiring after 27 years of service to Principia when this fiscal year ends June 30.

Incoming College President Dr. Daniel Norton, who takes the helm at the College on July 1, met with the Board during our Executive Session on Saturday. We are grateful for this harmonious leadership transition and appreciated the opportunity to welcome Dr. Norton and begin working with him.

Two new Trustees will join the Board at our November meeting: Elizabeth “Liz” (Shelton) Crow (C’05) and Terry McNabb (US’71, C’75).

After graduating from the College, Liz Crow received her law degree in 2010 from the University of Tulsa College of Law. She has worked for two members of Congress as a policy advisor and legislative director. Liz was director of external affairs for The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota before moving to Oklahoma where she currently lives with her husband, Peter, and their two young children. She is continuing her work with The Nature Conservancy as the government relations director for both the North America Agricultural Program and the Mississippi River Basin Program. Liz joined the Principia Alumni Board in 2020 and will end her service on that body in November when she joins the Board of Trustees.

Terry is a graduate of Principia Preschool, Lower School, Middle School, Upper School, and College. After graduating from the College, he served as an assistant basketball coach at the Upper School and then as a resident counselor and basketball coach at the College. He was in the securities and investment services business for 30 years, spending 21 of those years with Capital Group before retiring in 2008. Terry has served on the Principia Alumni Board, on his 50th Reunion Committee, chaired the fundraising campaign for Simon Field House, and was a member of the College President Search Committee this past year. For the last 13 years, Terry has coached both boys’ and girls’ tennis at the Upper School. He lives in St. Louis and is married to Lauri Thompson (Pfisterer) McNabb (US’81, C’86).

Board Executive Committee Elections
The Trustees elected new members to one-year terms serving on the Board Executive Committee: Dr. Scott Schneberger (Chair), Steve DeWindt (Vice Chair), David Walters (Treasurer), Trish Sarkisian (Secretary), and Kristin Jamerson (Member-at-Large). 

We are grateful for the many substantial steps of progress evident throughout this academic and fiscal year at Principia. Thanks to each of you for your part in demonstrating that “progress is the law of God,” as stated in the Principia-wide inspirational theme this year (Science and Health, p. 233).