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Keeping Your Head Above Water

September 1, 2018



This article, excerpted from Dr. Blane Covert's doctoral dissertation, is about the role of the Head of School in today’s educational environment.


Because of an independent school’s autonomous features, the Head of School is in a position to create an environment that is truly conducive to learning.  Thomson (1991) stated that “What is reasonably certain from observation is that effective leaders can make a strong contribution to organizational culture and outcomes” (p. 32).  The literature is quite clear about the direct correlation between the quality of a school’s governance and increased student achievement (Barnett, Caffarella, Daresh, King, Nicholson, & Whitaker, 1992; Cawelti, 1982; Davis, 2006; Leithwood, Rutherford, & Van Der Vegt, 1987; Murphy & Hallinger, 1987; Sweeney, 1982).  This widespread confidence in a dynamic leader’s ability to influence academic outcomes underscores the importance of selecting a Head of School who is both competent and well matched to the institution’s current needs.  

The role of the Independent School Headmaster has evolved over time.  Callahan (1962) reported that the number of business leaders appointed to School Boards increased significantly in the early 1900s, compelling superintendents to shift their focus away from education per se.  Marketing, fundraising, and trustee relations have become an integral part of the headship and, therefore, consume much of a lead administrator’s time (“Preparing for the First Headship,” 1990).  According to Ruoss (1992), the first headmasters dealt primarily with a school’s internal issues.  In more recent research, Levine (2005) suggested that “The job of school leader has been transformed by extraordinary economic, demographic, technological, and global change” (p. 11). According to NAIS (2010), “Heads are more involved in managing the school’s overall financial health, strategic planning, and fundraising” (p. 3).  


If your school or district is embarking on a search for its next Head of School or Superintendent, Academy Educational Consulting can help.  Dr. Blane Covert dedicated his doctoral research to Head of School/Superintendent turnover; now, he prepares School Boards for executive searches so that they can recruit and ultimately hire the right candidate.  To learn more about how to make your next Head of School/Superintendent search a success, contact Academy today at 501-230-0881.


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