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What are the roles and responsibilities of the board chair?

Most of the board chair's responsibilities fall into four broad categories:

1. To be knowledgeable about the institution or system in all of its complexity;
2. To develop ways to strengthen the board's effectiveness;
3. To speak for the board when appropriate; and
4. To serve as the board's conscience and disciplinarian.

Good things will happen when a board chair and president have a strong relationship, and the chair understands the responsibilities that stem from their work in assessing the board’s needs within the context of the institution’s needs. Experience shows that once a plan has been set in motion, a minimum of three to five years is required to help a governing board move from being ceremonial and honorific to engaged and participatory. The board chair, together with a chief executive who really wants such a board, is key to raising the bar and to establishing standards of trustee performance evaluation and comportment.

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