December 2018

Member query:

When planning and commencing a search for a new Head of School, what are your top five “Do’s” and top five “Don’ts”?


Reply from Cathy Trower:

Keep in mind that planning and commencing a search for a new Head of School is as much about the Board as it is the potential new Head. Savvy Head candidates will have a lot of questions about the Board.


  1. Discuss the board’s attractiveness as a partner for a new Head by answering:
    1. What are the essential elements of a strong Head-Board partnership?
    2. What’s working well in our present Head-Board partnership?
    3. What’s not working so well? Have we fallen into some bad habits?
    4. What would our current Head of School say are the Board’s strengths and weaknesses?
    5. What do we want to preserve about our Head-Board relationship?
    6. What do we want to change about our Head-Board relationship?
  2. Discuss and be realistic about the School’s current situation (e.g., financial, competitive position, enrollment patterns, etc.) to be able to work well with the search firm in designing the description / posting.
  3. Define the skills and expertise the ideal search committee will possess.
  4. Discuss the most desirable skills and expertise required and what tangible evidence you’d seek.
  5. Discuss the most desirable attribute, trait, or quality you’d want in the new Head and tangible evidence.


  1. Delude yourselves about the Board or the School; this is a time to be brutally candid.
  2. Try to go it alone; hire a search firm.
  3. Assume that the next Head has to come from the outside; discuss the pros and cons of an internal candidate.
  4. Create a huge search committee; keep it large enough to have good representation and diversity, but small enough to be nimble.
  5. Make assumptions about anything; make them explicit.