As principled as Board members might be in the abstract, they often show a quite different face on a Board or school committee. Just as an aside, for the sake of this discussion a "Board Committee" is one that is made up primarily of Board members and one which reports directly to the whole Board (Finance, Governance, etc.). By contrast, a "school committee" is one which might contain one or more Board members in its numbers, but which reports to the Head of School (communications, technology, etc.). In both cases, the committees are often supported by a member of the professional staff (Director of Advancement, Communications, Business Manager, etc.). So, here is where it gets messy. Occasionally, the mistaken impression develops that the professional member of the committee reports and is responsible to the Chair of the Committee and, through the Board representative, ultimately to the Board. If this happens, two potential problems may emerge. The first is that the committee might decide to commit time and resources to a project that is not a priority of the Head and the leadership team. As a result, the professional representative is left with conflicting directions - one from her or his actual "boss" and one from the committee. Faced with "serving two masters" the administrator (Development Officer, Communications Director, IT Director, etc.) is caught in what might become a power struggle between the Head and a Board member. The second pitfall occurs when a manager decides to end run the leadership team and use the committee to implement a personal priority.
In one school I reviewed a number of years ago, an IT Director, frustrated that the Head and senior leaders would not support what he felt to be a "necessary" upgrade of the infrastructure, convinced the Board member chair of the technology committee that this change was critically important and, as a result, it ended up with a heated argument around the Board table. Eventually a compromise was reached which cost the school monies that it really didn't have or need to spend, and left a damaged relationship between the Head and both the IT Director and a number of members of the Board.
I have seen other Board Committees "direct" the Head as to how to deal with a personnel issue; what the school's staffing priorities should be; what sports should be offered; what students should (or should not!) be admitted; and, even whom should be appointed to a particular position of responsibility.
In the final analysis, the faculty, staff and administrative team report to the Head of School. The Head of School reports to the entire Board. Often, as we have discussed, the demands of committees can interfere with this clear line of accountability as committees ask for reports, plans and recommendations from professional staff. All employees should answer to the Head, and a good rule of thumb is that any reports to committees should be vetted by the Head prior to being submitted to ensure that they are congruent with the direction of the leadership team of the school. The greatest temptation of Board members to micro-manage always exists around the committee table!