Role and constitution of Council
The College Council is the governing body for the Bishops Pre-Prep School, the Prep School and the College. The reference to ‘College’ in the name of the governing body refers to the school’s historic name, the Diocesan College, and does not imply that that the Pre-Prep and the Prep schools do not have a governing body.
The Council comprises twelve men and women and is constituted by an Act of Parliament, No. 11 of 1891, as amended in 1942. In terms of that Act, the school is also incorporated as an Anglican Church school. The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town is entitled to attend and vote at all meetings of Council. He is known as the Visitor to the school.
The role of Council is to effectively act as a board of directors for the school. The Council is responsible for the overall well-being of the school and involves itself with every aspect of the school, usually to the extent that such matters involve the strategy, structure, direction, finances, policies and pace of the school. It has complete oversight over all financial matters and oversight of all aspects of the school relating inter alia to the overall operation of the school, the investments of the school, the risks at the school, diversity at the school, the use of technology, the development of land and buildings, the excellence of facilities and the recruitment and retention of the best teachers, coaches and support staff.
While the Council manages the school like a business, we do not manage it as a business. Council is responsible for the approval of the operating budgets for the school each year and for the funding of and allocations to capital projects, such as new buildings, science laboratories, libraries, sports fields, etc. Operationally, the school budgets to break even each year. Council sets the fees for the school and determines the staff salary increases each year.
By far the biggest responsibility of Council is that of finding, recruiting and retaining a new Principal for Bishops every few years. That process was last undertaken in 2012 when Guy Pearson was selected to be the new Principal of Bishops with effect from January 2013. The Principal of the school reports to the Council.
Council does not involve itself at all in the normal operational aspects of the school, nor does it interfere in any way in the day-to-day management of the school. That is the domain of the Principal, Guy Pearson, and his team. Guy also has oversight and responsibility for the Pre-Prep and Prep schools, led by Greg Brown. The Pre-Prep and the Prep schools are extremely well run on a day-to-day basis under the leadership of Sharlene Groom and Greg Brown respectively. All staff appointments within the school are the responsibility of the Principal and his executive.
Likewise the Council does not involve itself in operational matters relating to Bishops old boys or to the OD Union, other than to the extent that the reputation of the school may be affected or to the extent that old boys engage directly with the school. Council, the school and I enjoy an exceptionally strong and collaborative relationship with the leadership of the OD Union.
We currently have about 7 800 ODs and about 2 400 members of the Bishops Society, which society comprises parents and past parents at Bishops. The activities of the Bishops Society are coordinated by the Head of History at Bishops, Dr. Paul Murray.
Members of Council serve voluntarily and give freely of their time, effort and experience. Accordingly they receive no remuneration, compensation or reimbursement of any kind for their contribution to the school as members of Council.
Council has five sub-committees as follows:
Finance Committee - chaired by Andrew Selby
Remuneration and Nominations Committee - chaired by the Chairman of Council
Building and Grounds Committee - chaired by Thabo Mashologu
Investment Committee - chaired by Prof Geoff Everingham
Risk Committee - chaired by Alison Davies
Membership of the various committees is made up of Council members, independent experts in the relevant area of focus for the committee, parents and members of staff.
All sub-committees make recommendations to Council for its consideration.
Elections to Council
In terms of the Act constituting the Diocesan College, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and the Council each elect six members of Council. In practice these days, Council and the Archbishop discuss and agree on all elections to Council.
We are constantly on the look out for men and women who would like to serve on Council and I would ask you to send any suggestions for nominations that you may have in this regard to me. Membership of Council requires a serious time commitment and passion for the school, as you would imagine. Members of Council are elected for an initial term in office of five years, which term may be extended at Council’s discretion for a further five-year term.
Council meetings are held at least quarterly and are attended by the twelve members of Council. The Chairs of the Prep and College Parents’ Associations and the Chairman of the OD Union (the Bishops old boys’ association) attend Council meetings as observers.
In terms of the Act, decisions are to be taken by members of Council only, but in practice all attendees at Council meetings take part in discussions and decision-making. Almost every decision of Council is unanimous.
Parents and others at Council meetings
There are currently seven parents of boys at the school attending Council meetings. Additionally three past parents of boys at Bishops and six ODs attend Council meetings. There are ten men and four women in this group.
The Principal, the Deputy Principal, the Headmaster of the Prep School (who also represents the Pre Prep School) and the school Business Manager also attend Council meetings.
Chairman and Principal
In my role as Chairman of Council, I normally meet with the Principal once a week for an hour or two. Additionally, Guy Pearson and I often discuss matters as they may arise on a daily basis and sometimes we talk to each other several times a day.
It is sometimes said that the Chairman of Council of a school serves as the closest confidant of the Principal as well being his harshest critic in private.
The relationship between the Chairman and a Principal is a critical relationship in the running of any successful school and I am happy to say that Guy and I work exceptionally well together.
The Chairman of Council is ex officio a member of all sub-committees of Council. Currently the Chairman of Council also serves as Chairman of the Bishops Trust, the body that has from time to time raised major funds for Bishops.
Guy and I also usually meet with the Archbishop each term, although we will speak to each other more urgently when required.
Summarized CVs of Members of Council and Observers
As you read through these details, I am hoping that you will feel, like I do, that we are extremely fortunate to have men and women of a very high calibre, with great experience and from a diversity of backgrounds serving Bishops.