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The crucial necessity of evaluating the school head

As an accrediting agency, we’ve been alarmed by several cases of school heads being dismissed without prior warning and/or without an evaluation track record substantiating due cause.

Photo by David Marcu

By Ken Wackes October 2017

About ten years ago a school head told me that research he had conducted for his doctoral dissertation discovered a disconcerting trend. He found that the average tenure of school heads in the nation’s largest Christian school accrediting association was 36 months. I gulped in disbelief. That was certainly not the case among CSF schools!

But in her April 2017 report to the CSF executive committee, Susan Taylor reported a larger number of schools than usual changed heads within the last three years. Among the reasons given: some were due to illness, some to retirement, and some moved to schools out of state. But alarming to us as an accrediting agency were several cases of dismissal without prior warning and/or without an evaluation track record substantiating a due cause for dismissal.

Not knowing the reason every change of head, I would wager that the evaluation processes in some cases were either faulty or were not used at all.

Best practices call for a well-designed continuous evaluation process of the school head by the governing board as is required for CSF accreditation. As a school head, if and when the governing board balks at formally evaluating your performance, simply cite Standard 3.10:

The school has a school board that maintains a strong, open relationship with the school head and annually conducts a formal, written evaluation of her/his performance.

Several causes prevent healthy, continuous evaluation of the school head by the governing board.

Governing boards:

  • are reluctant to evaluate the school head
  • have not learned how honest and supportive feedback can improve the head’s effectiveness
  • do not recognize the hidden costs to the school in changing the school head
  • have new members who feel it their duty to “clean the leadership”
  • even when they do want to evaluate the school head, tend to use generic, industry-focused evaluation processes that their companies’ HR departments use
  • have not learned how honest and supportive feedback can improve the head’s effectiveness and with it the school’s chances for personnel and enrollment stability and growth.

In addition, school heads frequently:

  • do not understand that although everything seems to be running smoothly, to not be evaluated at least annually is an opportunity for problems to find root and fester
  • do not insist that her/his evaluation be placed in the board’s annual agenda
  • do not insist that the school’s approved evaluation tool be frequently reviewed and updated.

To assist school heads and boards in this matter, we have posted a PowerPoint/Keynote presentation “Evaluating the School Head”. In it we presents a rationale for frequent (annual), written evaluations of the head of school by the Board and provide a template for the process.

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