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Picking A New Headmaster (Mistress… whatever)

Jane and Alexander’s school is in the process of selecting a new head of school. It’s more difficult and emotional than it would seem. Many independent private schools have a faculty that includes a least a few parents. The kids’ school seems to have a good number of parents and alumni parents on staff.

The school is at the phase where the finalists are being interviewed. It’s really scary to ask questions of staff who take care of your children day in and out.

I have three questions for each of the candidates that I’d like to see answered:

1. What is your academic vision for the school?
2. Who is the client first, the kids or the parents?
3. How would you go about hiring new teachers?

Apparently these are questions no one else is asking. I don’t know if I’m too direct for my own good, or if I just see the world a little differently.

We’ve made a lot of sacrafices to send our kids to the school they attend. We’ve made them joyfully, as it’s a wonderful place for them to be. Right now, I’m just a little nervous. The school will change, we just don’t know if the changes will be positive or negative. Perhaps they will just be changes, neither positive nor negative.

What questions would you have for a prospective head of school?


7 thoughts on “Picking A New Headmaster (Mistress… whatever)”

  1. I would add to question #2 — or the teachers/staff.

    Also, I would ask:

    How would you define the role of headmaster?
    What is your management style of the administration and staff?
    How does taking this position support your personal and professional goals?
    If you were a parent of a student at this school, what is a question you would ask a prospective headmaster that you haven’t been asked yet?

    Hope this helps. Jenn

  2. In addition to yours?

    Tell me about your policy on bullying, both how you would handle the bully and how you would handle the victim. Is your academic goal for the students that they compete or surpass the local public school? Tell me about your financial aid that you foresee offering – what criteria will be used to determine who gets it, who will know which kids get it, how will the costs of those students be absorbed? Do you have the type of personality where you feel you’re doing your job best by being left alone in an office all day to plow through emails and return calls, or do you feel you’re doing best when having daily interaction with students and teachers? How accessible do you plan to be to students, teachers and parents?

    I could come up with more.

  3. Yeah, I’d leave #2 open-ended, and just ask who is the client first.
    I’d also like to know what policies he/she plans to keep in place and what would be the changes they’ve used elsewhere that they’d want to implement here.
    Also, what was the biggest mistake you’ve made? What did you learn from it?

  4. I think your questions really need to be asked (and answered). Our school has done 2 new headmaster searches in the past 4 years, because the first headmaster was a COMPLETE disaster. I hope your search committee isn’t dazzled by superficial stuff, because it was deadly for our school.

  5. All of your questions, and then I’d throw in a couple about finances, specifically budgeting and development. This is a huge part of the job, and it would be great to know both their vision for the school’s financial future, and what experience they have managing budgets and a development office.

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