Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Role of the UUA Trustee on the District Board

Sixth in a series of posts about the October UUA Board Meeting

There is no single model for the relationship between the district board and that district's elected trustee on the UUA board. Some of us are "ex officio" with no vote and may or may not be expected to attend district board meetings, some of us are full voting members, and some of us are not on the district board at all. My biggest surprise when I was elected as the PCD trustee is that I was on the PCD board as well -- the time commitment I had made had just doubled (the PCD board meets more often, but the UUA board meets for more days).

This works for a semi-retired single person with minimal family obligations -- which may be why so many of us who serve on boards are semi-retired people with minimal family obligations. While I consider myself good at understanding and conveying a variety of viewpoints, I'd rather have a more diverse group. We have created a situation with unintended consequences.

In January all board members will begin formal dialogues with congregations that will add to all of our time commitments, though this is exactly the kind of work we should be doing. As UUA trustees, we are working diligently at letting go of staff work, only to see a lot of it resurfacing at district board meetings we may be attending - which may well be the mission of the board of that particular district.

District board members and the UUA trustee are elected by the same body: delegates at the district assemblies. Regardless of whether or not the district is operating under policy governance (the PCD is not), the two boards are accountable to a similar group, but technically not to each other. The District trustees are accountable to the congregations that comprise their district, and the UUA trustees to all member congregations of the UUA (the UUA Board has added additional accountability to its list of "sources").

So what is the relationship between the two boards? This is somewhat complicated by the UUA board's adoption of Policy Governance. Two of its basic tenets are that the Board speaks as a unit to the staff through the CEO. That would suggest that a single UUA board member should not be giving direction as a voting member to a district staff person who is (also) employed by the UUA.

What we do know is that District Boards are comprised of some of our best and most committed members. I value the relationships that started there. Whatever changes occur over the next few years, these boards need to be at the table as well.


Anonymous said...

Linda, compounding the situation is the unique situation where the UUA staff pays half the salaries & benefits of the district staff. So, the whole question of accountability of that staff comes into question. Are district executives accountable to their district boards? the UUA? Both? Has the UUA Board considered this situation in its discussions?

AJU said...

I'd like to turn this question in a different direction. I just look at the district web site and can find no mention of the district trustee. How are the PCD congregations supposed to interact with their representative when they can't even find an email address?

I think that there is a very disturbing lack of support. That might be aided by attending the district board meetings, but certainly requires the support of the district staff.