The good Governance project

Good Governance


An Initiative of the Office of Overseas Schools

The United States Department of State



Governance continues to be the most discussed leadership topic across international school regions, as confirmed by ongoing AAIE surveys of school heads across five continents. Board trustees and head of school form the single most important team within a school. If the school head and board team are not in harmony and productive, then all other functions across a school are compromised.

If it could be measured across overseas schools around the world, it would surely be found that boards and school heads in “high-achieving schools” come together to create a strong working relationship, where shared vision and action over time promotes continuous improvement – guided by high-quality board policies, procedures and strategic intent.

The Most Successful Schools

The A/OS Good Governance Project seeks to ensure best practices in board governance and to teach key leadership behaviors that ensure school heads can best “lead-together” with her/his board chair and trustees, supporting a high-performing school. The hallmark of good overseas school governance is a solid relationship, strong operational agreements and productive expectations between the head of school, board chairperson and all trustees. Establishing high-performing governance practices builds from leadership capacity of the school head and board trustees.


The Good Governance Project came about through support from the US State Department Office of Overseas Schools to assist international schools’ Boards of Trustees in meeting the challenge of governing their schools during these volatile times. The core of the Project is the A/OS International School Board Development Curriculum, a succinct compendium of the critical performance standards characterizing effective governance. 

This curriculum was developed based on extensive review of proven practice, established guidelines of the leading international school and non-profit governance consulting organizations, accreditation standards, and the wise input of scores of Board Chairs and Heads of Schools. The curriculum then led directly to the production of a Board Evaluation Instrument, serving as a self-assessment tool for Boards interested in assessing and strengthening their governance capacity.

The Curriculum, comprised of seven modules, is designed to serve as a guide for Boards in forging their own learning journey. Using the Evaluation Instrument, Boards can bring focus to strengths and needs, and make the changes they need to optimize their work.

Supporting these anchor documents are a number of related resources, prime among them is the Leading Together initiative. Given that the prime responsibility for effective governance and leadership in a school belongs to the Chair-Head of School team, that partnership and how it serves the Board is the focus of the Leading Together Curriculum, a research-based roadmap for the work of that team.

Other resource materials within the scope of the Project include model foundational documents (Articles of Association and Bylaws), a guideline and exemplar of a sound International School Policy Manual, a practical Board Handbook template, complete with links to over thirty supporting documents, and guide-sheets/instruments for Head of School evaluation and the Head search process.

Finally, the Good Governance Project offers a host of training opportunities and consulting services to Boards and their Heads, primarily orchestrated through the regional associations.

We welcome your exploration of the resources and services provided by this Project.  Further inquiries can be made through your regional association or directly to AAIE.


A concise yet comprehensive guide to the responsibilities of an International School Board of Trustees

View Curriculum


Leading Together Curriculum

A practical, hands-on governance development curriculum for Head of School/Board Chair teams

View Curriculum





Key Exemplary Governance Resources


Model Policy Manual

The Exemplary International School Governance Project provides for a research-based set of model international school policies. These policies offer an update on boilerplate guidance and also the most updated policies on contemporary issues. Seminars on researching, development/revision and implementation of the model policies are offered using a virtual meeting platform as needed. As requested, consultants will also support policy manual development with any individual school.  

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Board of Trustees Handbook

The Exemplary International School Governance Project offers a practical handbook for international school trustees, specific to roles, responsibilities, scope of influence and key criteria for effectiveness and procedures that promote productivity. Specific to the international school context, the handbook supports board trustee development and ensures a common language about blue-ribbon governance between the board and senior leadership.  

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Best Practices in Evaluating Performance of Board Trustees and Head of School 

The Exemplary International School Governance Project has developed guidelines and instruments for evaluating the effectiveness of both the Board and the Head of School.  The School Board Evaluation Instrument is based on the AAIE Board Development Curriculum, designed to be used as a self-assessment of the Board’s performance.  The Head of School Evaluation Instrument, supported by guidelines for conducting that performance assessment aligns with established standards of practice for Heads of International Schools.  Both processes, Board self-evaluation and Head of School evaluation are focused on growth and development as a vital component of the Set Goals-Implement-Assess cycle.  A consultant-led seminar can be provided as part of the policy manual development process or as a separate area of focus for board and senior leadership development.

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Best Practices for a Head of School Search Process 

The Exemplary International School Governance Project has developed a GUIDE of model international head of school search process steps (research-based) with rationale and guiding practices that recognize the unique nature of an overseas search. A consultant-led seminar can be provided as part of the policy manual development process or as a separate area of focus for board and senior leadership development. 

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Consulting SUPPORT and seminars


David has had a lifetime of engagement in leadership of and networking with independent schools around the world. He has held headships at the International School of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso, West Africa), the Karachi American School (Pakistan), the American Embassy School in New Delhi, and Cairo American College. For 20 years, he served as the Executive Director of the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools, and he has served on numerous boards including the Association of International Schools in Africa, the Association for the Advancement of International Education, NAIS, and the U.S. Fulbright Commission in Greece.


Rick has worked with school boards as head of five international schools over the past 25 years. He is a consultant on governance and boardsmanship; consultant to NESA on its Board Development Project. Before joining the international school community in 1988, he was a US Navy officer, a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana, and for ten years, a teacher and principal in Vermont. 


Faraday is currently a Board Trustee at the American School of Madrid and an educational consultant with more than 30 years of experience in international schools as an administrator, teacher, coach, and Board member.  In addition to her full-time work with international schools, Faraday has offered workshops and run study groups for adult learners in person and virtually for Harvard University and the Department of Overseas Schools since the early 2000s.


Robin is originally from Wisconsin and taught American government to high school students for 9 years before moving overseas 36 years ago. In August 2018, Robin joined the Office of Overseas Schools (A/OS) as the Regional Education Officer for the Western Hemisphere (Mexico, Central & South America and the Caribbean) and has served in this position for the pasty six years. Immediately before joining A/OS, Robin served as the Superintendent of the American Community School (ACS), Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. She worked in 6 international schools during her 31 years overseas. Robin also served as the Director of the American International School of Zagreb, Croatia. In addition to having several years of experience as a head of school, Robin has been a teacher, director of curriculum, and high school principal in Kinshasa, Zaire; Rabat, Morocco; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Buenos Aries, Argentina. 



Jeff greatly enjoyed the opportunity to become fluent in Spanish and immerse himself in the Latin culture while living and working in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Nicaragua over the course of his 42 year career in international education. Jeff worked collaboratively with Governance Boards for a total of 32 years as Head of School for five different international schools in Latin America.


David is a psychologist who has served as an elected Board member on the Bernards Township Board of Education in New Jersey.  He was a public school superintendent in New Jersey and subsequently served as Headmaster in Italy, Serbia, Romania, Japan, and Dubai for a total of 31 years. David also held the role of Director of International Accreditation with ACS WASC for four years. He continues to provide school board and leadership training.


Sarah  has 30+ years of leadership experience in primarily international schools. She has worked closely with a variety of school Boards, and appreciates the intricacies of the Board and Head’s shared responsibility for their school. Most recently the Head of School for The American School of Tangier in Morocco, Sarah has led schools in Aruba, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Montana. Great boards engender great schools. Sarah looks forward to supporting schools by strengthening their Boards through adapted sharing of the Good Governance materials.

Mary Russman

Mary Russman

Mary Russman has been involved in education for more than four decades as a teacher, counselor, principal and director at international schools in Greece, Italy, England, the United States, Bangladesh, Nepal, Argentina, Zimbabwe, The Netherlands and Latvia. Most recently, Mary served as a Regional Education Officer (REO) with the U.S. Department of State's Office of Overseas Schools. As an REO, Mary worked with international schools and US Embassies and Consulates in Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and South-Central Asia. Mary’s areas of interest/expertise are counseling, programs for students with exceptionalities, post-secondary education, finance, group dynamics, and effective governance practices. Mary's home base is now Northern Michigan in the United States.


Tom has served in a myriad of capacities within the international school community; as Superintendent, as President of the Executive Board of AISA, as an expert on school board/governance training, as a Regional Educational Officer for the Office of Overseas schools and, most recently as the Director of the Office of Overseas Schools. Currently, Tom serves as the liaison between the Department of State and the College Board, National Superintendents Association, National Principals Association, and the Middle State Schools and Colleges Accreditation Association.


Kristi is a recognized leader in partnering with international schools to improve board governance practices and build stronger working relationships between School Heads, Board Chairs, and Trustees. Kristi is a specialist in helping educational leaders and their boards shape and optimize their governance structures, evolve governance strategies and practices for sustainability, and unite all stakeholders behind a shared vision for the future of their institutions. Kristi is currently based in Ethiopia and travels extensively to partner with international schools supporting board governance, strategic planning, and communications.



how to participate

The A/OS - AAIE Good Governance Project is designed to serve and support all member schools, as a resource for ready reference and as a foundation for consulting services provided by Good Governance Project trained consultants.  Schools are free to access the resources provided herein within the guidelines of the Creative Commons License (see below) and contract with endorsed consultants for related support and services (above).

The US Department of State Office of Overseas Schools provides financial support for excellence in governance to Office of Overseas Schools sponsored schools. AAIE is pleased to support and advocate the furtherance of effective governance through the Good Governance Project.


Interested in learning more? Regional Organizations will support The Good
Governance Project work via their programs. The list of Executive Directors for each Regional Organization, listed below, can answer your questions about assistance with this program on a regional basis. Reach out to them about conferences and events they will be holding.

The Office of Overseas Schools will provide support to individual schools when needed. Those schools supported by the Office of Overseas Schools, wanting this program to come to their schools, need to contact their Regional Education Officer.

By leveraging the collaborative efforts of Regional Organizations, the Office of Overseas Schools, and AAIE, The Good Governance Project aims to deliver comprehensive support to schools worldwide.

Regional Organizations and Directors:


Please contact

Laura Light
AAIE Executive Director

The AAIE International School Board Development Curriculum is a component of the AAIE Governance Suite by David Chojnacki and Rick Detwiler, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 International License. Under this Creative Commons license, you are free to share this material — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format, under the following terms:

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