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HOW WE SEARCH AND SUPPORT OUR HEAD OF SCHOOL CANDIDATES AND APPOINTEES


We do not provide search services without transition support.  We are the firm that schools do not hire to repeat searches!


The search for an independent or parochial school’s head or principal is one of the most intimidating tasks facing school communities and the boards that lead them.  In addition to the complications inherent in an ordinary executive search—the annual employment cycle, the complex evaluation of the right “fit”, the sticky issues of compensation and contracts—the pool of competent and available executive school leaders is shrinking. 

Given the growing social, legal, and technological complexities of the head of school role, there are fewer and fewer emerging candidates who aspire to the head position. In a recent straw poll of independent school leadership students at Vanderbilt University, only 1/6 of the students surveyed saw headship as a possibility in their future.

Further exacerbating the talent shortage is the fact that the private school environment is a fractured collection of isolated professional networks that have little, if any, contact with one another. Many search firms (comprised mostly of non-educators) conduct head of school searches as only one of many executive searches they perform.  They have little understanding of these networks or the complexity of the work that school leaders do, day in and day out.

The head of school position is the most complicated and tenuous position in PK-12 schooling.  Over the past few decades the average tenure of heads has declined precipitously, to as low as four years.  To combat high turnover rates and to ensure the value of our search services, BetterSchools embeds transition support as a critical element of every search. 

 We know from research and experience that the main contributor to leadership turnover is tension between heads and their boards.  Our unique transition support service is designed to equip newly appointed heads with a firm base of support from and clear communication with their boards.  Furthermore, the service delivers a set of mutually-agreed upon key metrics between newly appointed heads and their boards, metrics that define success for boards and job satisfaction for the heads they hire.

 We Are Not Headhunters 

We are a well-connected team of educational professionals and consultants who understand the daily realities of leading successful schools.  We have a passion for independent school education and a commitment to see it thrive.  

 As a result of our leadership and scholarship, we are actively involved in a carefully constructed combination of school leadership networks.  We don’t connect to high quality leadership candidates and schools by showing up as vendors at conferences.  We have unique credibility as thought leaders, authors, practitioners, and educational entrepreneurs.  We represent and serve diverse constituency groups, from traditional parochial schools, to large independent faith-based schools, to innovative global curriculum schools, to market shaping classical schools.

 We run in the same circles as the heads of school sought by leading schools.  We don’t just know “about” the people search committees are looking for. We know them.

 Our job is to partner with school communities in the interest of establishing the framework, through an intentionally designed search and transition support system, for the next head of school’s long-term impact.  We believe that hiring the “wrong-body” is more dangerous than hiring “no-body”, and we know how to position a school’s key constituencies to work together toward strategically oriented success.

Transition Support
Even the most exacting search can end up in a placement that doesn’t last.  As we have watched searches and placements in private schools over the past 25 years, we’ve come to the conclusion that searching and screening is not enough.  Personality and psycho-metric matching are not enough. Heads and boards, often coming to the table with widely varying perspectives on what’s important in their schools, need more than help finding each other.  They need help learning to live and work together.


We reject the notion that the all-too-common cycle of honeymoon—skepticism—cynicism—divorce should inevitably characterize board and head relationships.  In our executive coaching work with sitting heads of school, we have discovered that re-framing the most important relationship on campus in goal-oriented terms can save a head’s job and save a board from the arduous and expensive task of replacing him or her.

So, we asked ourselves, why can’t we “save the marriage” before trouble ever begins?  But, how to convince schools to invest in this vital service before they think they need it?  We realized that embedding the service as part of the search and placement would be the best way to provide the benefit.  AT NO ADDITIONAL COST.

BetterSchools engages directly with the board and the head, establishing a framework for institutional success.  The heart of the process is a mutually considered set of four to eight near to mid-term strategic objectives.  Our associate assists the board in determining its top areas of institutional growth or improvement for which the new head will be accountable.  For a comparable fee to conventional head hunters, BetterSchools ensures a school’s investment by facilitating an on-site goal-setting retreat and by scheduling monthly coaching calls with the board chair and newly appointed head of school.