There's all kinds of negativity happening at the Center on Hearing and Deafness (CHAD) in West Chester (PA) which, according to Philadelphia Inquirer "is without a permanent director, and most of its staff has quit, including the co-founder and longtime executive director who has been replaced with an interim director who cannot sign and had difficulties with some staffers, half of whom are deaf."
So lot's of issues are on the table including the usual issues that surround the departure of a founder-director and a board that has successfully diversified to have as members some who are not deaf. But one of the most interesting issues to me arises out of the statement by one of the board members referring to the situation noting that the former exec. "did not seem to understand that the executive director does not run the agency - the board runs it."
Indeed, if "run" means providing direction, oversight and care as though the organization was it's own, this director is absolutely correct. On the other hand if "run" means being focused on evey operating detail, I can not disagree more. True, the Board does have an employee: the executive director. Also true, the board must establish the long range direction as well as measures for ensuring that the "ship" is pointed appropriately and stays on track in addition to understanding what results have been achieved. But, a nonprofit and for-profit Board has only one employee: the exec. This can be an occasionally challenging lesson for staff and board alike.
In my opinion, the CHAD board does appear to be taking the prudent steps required of a board fulfilling its duty of care. It's wanting to make sure that the books are correct. It has put an interim exec in place while it finishes the work necessary to prepare for a new exec. It is conducting a forensic audit (actually an ok activity for any board). It is visiting with funders to provide current information versus letting rumors rule. And, to top it off, it appears concerned about its own diversity to ensure it can communicate the needs of all its clients.
If there's any possible room for improvement to address the issues championed by the critics, the board might undertake some more work to ensure all understand the reason for maintaining a diverse board. It must do a better job explaining its own diversity in addition to why it might not hire an exec who can't sign. I can think of lot's of reasons just off-hand.