Recently we began coaching a school leader who has accepted the role of chief administrator. This is his first time serving in such a capacity so he's trying to start off with momentum in the right direction.
What advice would you give to a new school leader?
He is succeeding the founding leader of the school, who was there for over 25 years. Having served as a teacher and mid-level administrator in the school, this client now seeks to continue some of the core successes and traditions of the school, while also making necessary changes that have been needed for some time. He wants to honor the past, but also recognizes how important school design and innovation is for the future of the institution. Below are the three things we emphasized for his first 90-day plan.
Strengthen the Board
The board that has been working with a founding administrator is typically not as strong as it needs to be in order to support the school going forward. Often populated with friends and closely aligned people, this kind of board tends to lack a cohesive vision and structure outside of the previous leader. One risk, for example, is that a board member may see this transition in leadership as an opportunity to pursue a personal agenda for the program, taking advantage of the weakness of the board.
We encouraged this new school administrators to schedule a board retreat soon in order to focus on affirming the target market and the value proposition of the school, and clearly defining performance goals for both the board as well as the chief administrator. This is also an opportunity for the board to assess their growth as a governing body and to set long-term objectives toward becoming a Sustaining Board that is able to attain the highest level of oversight for the school. Finally, a retreat would give the administrator a more personal venue in which to share his vision for the organization and build relationships with the board members in this new level of authority.
Know the Business of the School
Even though he previously worked in the school in various roles, including as an assistant administrator, it's different being responsible for the entire program. Unless organized as a co-op with volunteer labor, every school is a business with a budget, payroll, vendor contracts, student/family contracts, legal obligations, board, etc. The chief administrator must know the business of the school and be prepared to assess and improve the operational design of it.
Know the Faculty
Transitioning into the chief administrator role inevitable will change the relationship with the faculty (We use the term "faculty" to include all of the employees in the building, recognizing that everyone is in a position of instructional influence). We encouraged our client to get to know each faculty member, in coordination with the rest of the administration, to understanding his/her unique combination of strengths, instincts, and interests in order to craft a personalized professional development plan. We also showed him how to conduct a 20-60-20 Review in order to gain insight about the contribution of each person in relation to the entire organization. Understanding the vital important of the school's Talent Quotient (TQ: Ratio of high performers to non-high performers) and Faculty Engagement is important advice for a new school administration to be most successful.
What words of wisdom would you add?