October 2021 Board Update

The Board of Trustees held its regular fall meeting online October 25–27, 2021. Even though our time together was once again remote, the meeting was filled with discussion regarding the informational material provided to the Trustees ahead of the meeting, as well as inspiration and profound gratitude for each of the employees and students who make this wonderful place shine.

Prior to each Board meeting, each campus head and senior administrator writes a detailed report about their area. With input from their teams, they prepare a narrative, often accompanied by data, charts, and graphs, providing the Trustees with key information about the successes and challenges in their areas.  

These reports, combined into an online “Board Book” that is more than 100 pages in length, include action items administrators are asking the Board to approve. The action items have already been discussed in Board committee meetings that include both Trustees and staff members working together between Board meetings. This enables the Board committees to endorse and support the proposals brought to the full Board for approval. 

The first two days of this Board meeting included a dozen different sessions, each with Trustees, campus heads, and other administrators in the room for discussion, information sharing, and dialogue. The third day was reserved for “executive session” of the Board members only, with administrators invited back for follow-up on specific topics. During executive session, Board members have frank, self-examining discussion of the proposed action items before voting on them. At this meeting, every motion put forward by the campus heads and senior administrators was approved.

As always, Trustees and administrators opened each day of our meetings with readings and the sharing of inspiration from our metaphysical work in support of Principia. Some of the many inspiring ideas focused on spiritual progress. We acknowledged that “every step of progress is a step more spiritual” (The People's Idea of God, p. 1) while recognizing that “every day makes its demands upon us for higher proofs rather than professions of Christian power” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 233).

In August, the Board asked Dr. Scott Schneberger to temporarily serve as acting chief executive in addition to his role as Board chair. The Board scheduled a special meeting to be held in January 2022 to decide the path forward regarding executive leadership and other urgent items. Board Vice Chair Dr. Chuck Lindahl will lead this portion of the meeting.

College Student Code of Conduct
College Dean of Students Maya Dietz has been leading development of a new College Student Code of Conduct for the past 18 months, with widespread input from the College community. That work has also included getting input and feedback from the Board Education Committee at multiple points in the process. At this Board meeting, the chair of the Education Committee facilitated a discussion on the sections of the new Code of Conduct that needed Board approval because of their intersection with Principia’s Policies. 

Following thoughtful discussion, and with the unanimous recommendation of the Board’s Education Committee, the Trustees voted to approve these sections of the new Code of Conduct. The Trustees are grateful to Dean Dietz and her team for the thorough, professional, and transparent development of this updated Code of Conduct. Employees and College students can access the new Student Code of Conduct on PrinWeb.

Ad hoc Policy Review Committee
The Board approved creating an Ad Hoc Policy Review Committee and worked on defining the purpose and responsibilities of the committee. The purpose of the committee is to conduct a comprehensive review of Principia’s 23 Policies in relation to gender neutrality; issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and the Board policy statements of 2014 (discrimination) and 2019 (treatment choice and pilot admissions program). This review is also intended to provide clarity where changes in professional titles and linguistic usage have resulted in confusion and to recommend proposed amendments for discussion and approval by the Board.  

The Policy Review Committee will be chaired by Trustee Allan Marquardt and include four other Trustee members, including the Board chair. The two campus heads and a senior representative of administrative Shared Services will serve as ex-officio members without a vote. Each ex-officio member will be invited to designate an additional representative to help bring practical experience and insights to the work of the committee. 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
The Trusteeship Committee invited Christian Science practitioner Nicole Virgil to join the meeting and talk about her ideas regarding “neutralizing racism.” She shared her own experiences and perspectives as outlined in her June 2021 Christian Science Journal article “Neutralizing racism with Truth” and then engaged in a question-and-answer session with Trustees and administrators.

During the Board’s executive session, DEI expert and consultant Dr. Jennifer Stollman shared results of the culture survey she conducted with the College faculty, staff, and students. Dr. Stollman has been collaborating with the College for the past year and has now taken up a consulting role at the School to provide coaching, professional development, and community building for the School’s DEI program. She will also be working with staff in the Business Office as well as further consulting with the Board. We are grateful for the productive dialogue, workshops, and collaboration for furthering a culture of belonging across Principia.

Tuition, Room, and Board
The Board approved tuition, room, and board (TRB) rates for the 2022–2023 academic year. After a year of no increase for the 2021–2022 academic year, School TRB will increase 5.75 percent, and College TRB will increase 4.3 percent.

Trustee Visiting Days
The four Trustees who participated in a new model for Trustee Visiting Days in September reported how much they enjoyed seeing Principia’s educational programs in action and interacting with students, faculty, and staff. The Interim Head of School and College President planned and organized the day-long visits on each campus. Additional Trustee Visiting Days are scheduled for February and April 2022.

Town Hall
Dr. Schneberger will be joined by Trustees Steve DeWindt and Kristin Jamerson for a Principia-wide Town Hall question-and-answer session on Monday afternoon, 11/8, from 4:00-5:00 p.m. (CT). We look forward to a dialogue about the topics in this report and any other issues of concern to the community.

Thanks to each of you for your extraordinary efforts on behalf of Principia’s students. During this Thanksgiving season, you are at the top of our gratitude list for your devotion to the divine idea of Principia.