Cristo Rey High School and the First Board Meeting of The Year
Last week, I had the great privilege of attending my first Board Meeting as a member of the Cristo Rey High School board of directors. And even though I had to travel from Evanston all the way to the south side of Chicago, it was definitely worth the trip. Not only did I get a chance to see a high-powered charter school in person but I also got the chance to meet a very powerful board team and watch members of the Cristo Rey staff in action. And at the meeting, we learned a number of new things about the school and discussed the school’s plan for success in the future.
At long last, months after figuring out that I’d be sitting on Cristo Rey’s board through the Kellogg Board Fellows program, I finally attending my first meeting with Cristo Rey. And I’m quite thrilled with how everything went. The other new members were not only pretty interesting group but also had very impressive backgrounds. On one side of me was a partner from the Boston Consulting Group. Ironically, I had met him during the MBA recruiting process a year or two back, and he recognized me the moment he walked into the room. To his right was a partner at the prestigious Chicago law firm Winston and Strawn. On my other side sat an entrepreneur. And across the table was none other than Chris Perry. In addition to being on the Executive Committee of Loyola Academy, Chris currently serves as chairman of the Board for Cristo Rey.
ONe takeaway after seeing the diverse set of board members is that social impact can come from many different areas. Not only from high paying roles like consulting and corporate law but also roles in the entrepreneurship and not for profit spaces. Another takeaway was the ability to have impact from both the law side and business side. That both can play a role in having impact and helping to push great organizations forward to do things that they couldn’t have done themselves.
As I mentioned, this specific meeting was an introduction to the organization for incoming board members. In the meeting we discussed a large number of important topics. First we talked about the mission of the organization and the staff highlighted what it was that the organization stood for. Formally, the school’s mission statement from the website is: “Cristo Rey Jesuit High School offers a Catholic college preparatory education for the immigrant families of Chicago’s near southwest side.”
We also talked about the kids and how the goal was to change their lives and improve their chances of success not only academically but also professionally. And one way the school does that is by having skill building programs that set them up to do well in their work placements. Next, we talked about the admissions and financial process and what that looked like over the past few years.
Toward the end of the meeting, we discussed a few of the governance issues at play. We learned about the rest of the board members and committees and what those committees will do this year. Personally, I’ll be spending time on either the Governance committee or the Programs Committee, either or which whould be a pretty interesting experience.
Likewise, we talked about the composition of the board, and the goal to have the board be more reflective of the actual student body at Cristo Rey. Over the long run, the school wants more hispanic women for positions on the board but finding them is harder given the demographic of its usual board members.
And finally, we ended the meeting by looking at the financial health of the school. And I must say, the numbers sure did speak for themselves. We learned that the organization has been immensely healthy over the past years. That not only was the budget well-run but also that donors were continuing to give and employers were continuing to work with Cristo Rey even in the current economic malaise. It was actually pretty impressive.
In the end, it was clear that the organization had the talent and resources to keep having impact. It was also clear that the new members were committed and excited to get started in the new academic year. I look forward to working with the group and hopefully playing a part in the continued success of the students over the upcoming months.
Thanks Kellogg for the great opportunity to take the role as part of the Kellogg Board Fellows program.