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It Takes a Level Head

September 15, 2018

This article, excerpted from Dr. Blane Covert's doctoral dissertation, is about the importance of choosing the right school leader for a school or district.

According to Drucker (1990), the board of a non-profit institution does the following:  “[The Board] not only helps think through the institution’s mission, it is the guardian of that mission, and makes sure the organization lives up to its basic commitment.  The board has the job of making sure the non-profit has competent management—and the right management” (p. 157).  McAdams (1996) agreed, noting that the superintendent is the person responsible for communicating the Board’s objectives in such a way that the school community is motivated to take part in the advancement.  It follows that the selection of a head of school is arguably the most important decision to be made by a Board of Trustees (Glass & Franceschini, 2007; Hess, 2002; Hord & Estes, 1993; Storey, 1987).  A former Board chairman confirmed the difficulty of the task after serving on a search committee:  “The toughest thing I’ve had to do, the most onerous decision I’ve had to take part in since I was elected, was helping to choose a superintendent of schools . . . .  When you leave the board, you leave the district with the superintendent you helped to choose” (Storey, 1987, p. 25).

According to the National School Boards Association (1996), School Boards must conduct an organized and systematic search to make certain that the new head will work well, both with Board Members and with the school community.  Glass and Franceschini (2007) echoed this commitment to positive working relationships when they pointed out that “If a serious problem arises between the superintendent and the board (or individual board members), it quickly filters down . . . creating uncertainty in district direction and leadership” (p. 67).  

Only rarely does a Board decision have such wide-ranging implications for the life of a school community.  The American Association of School Administrators (1968) echoed this sentiment in their guide to selecting a superintendent:  “Increasingly greater skill is required for the successful management of modern schools.  Nothing that the board does is more important than employing and retaining a professionally prepared and dedicated superintendent” (pp. vi-vii).  Because the headmaster of a private school establishes the learning environment, Roberts (1996) wrote that an institution’s most important investment is the one it makes in its leader.  Glass and Franceschini (2007) affirmed that conclusion when they wrote that “the most important decision a board makes is its choice of a superintendent” (p. 67). 


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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