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Front Money

February 18, 2019


This article, excerpted from Dr. Blane Covert’s doctoral dissertation, looks into the costs—both financial and emotional—associated with Head of School/Superintendent searches.

When a Head of School/Superintendent resigns or retires, chaos usually follows.  Boards scramble to find a replacement.  Teacher turnover increases.  Parents get skittish.  Student retention rates drop.  Operating funds are diverted to pay search firm fees, which are typically one third of the incoming leader’s first-year salary.  Enthusiasm is high as the new Head of School or Superintendent takes the reins, but after a few years, he or she is gone.  You’re back to square one.  Does this sound familiar?  It’s happening regularly in schools and districts around the country, and it’s costly in a number of ways.

Wallace (2003) wrote that “an inappropriate selection of a Superintendent can be quite costly to a district” (p. 50).  With the typical search lasting between three and six months (Mayo, 2003) and costing between $30,000 and $80,000 (Anderson, 2006), Boards of Trustees must make every effort to ensure that the fit between the candidate and the school community lends itself to a tenure of reasonable length.  Conway and Miles (2009) reported that a short-term Head of School costs the institution approximately 150% of the Head’s salary. 

Regular conflict in the leadership of a school not only undermines student learning, but it also demoralizes faculty and staff (Chance & Capps, 1990).  This kind of conflict and instability in the Head of School’s/Superintendent’s office diminishes the effectiveness of the entire school community (National School Boards Association, 1996).  According to Anderson (2006), a substandard match “may lead to contract buyouts, resignations, and firings” (p. 22).  In other words, a poor match can be expensive—in lost dollars, waning confidence, and organizational dysfunction. 

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; his online courses prepare 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, visit www.academyeducationalconsulting.com.

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