The Headmaster: Head of School On-Boarding Program

This Head of School (HOS) On-Boarding program is designed to serve as a customizable template for smooth transition of a new HOS into The Academy and life in a new community. It is applicable in concept for on-boarding other leadership positions such as a division head, business manager or academic dean. The transition phase begins the moment the new head is named; long before he/she begins to assume the new post. Attention should be paid to the physical transition of the head and family, to the preparation of the head for the challenge ahead, and to the structuring of the head’s first year so that he/she will have manageable goals and the best opportunity for success. All of this benefits not only the new leader, but the entire school community.
The physical transition includes not only the head but also the head’s family. The family may not be familiar with the new community to which they are transitioning. New housing, schools, services, work for a spouse, church relationship, climate, and other practical community factors need to be considered and the transition supported. As the head’s family makes the transition, the board will want to introduce the family to the school community with public and private events so they feel welcome and informed.
If the new HOS is relatively inexperienced, consider a workshop such as the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) New Heads Institute (NHI) to speed ramp up. This workshop includes not only solid content and respected facilitators, but also gives the new head a network of other new heads they can fall back on over the course of the year. The 20XX INH will normally take place in July (seewww.nais.org).
The Academy board may also wish to organize a retreat with the search consultant or another school consultant that can help define expectations, smooth the transition, and help organize the evaluation plan for the new head of school. It is vital that the board and head meet together in a facilitated session to map out major 12 to 18 month measurable objectives that will be used to evaluate performance and to clarify roles and responsibilities. In introductions to the school community, these major areas of operation and objectives should be published and explained. The head and board should organize their work around this finite set of objectives for the first year or so, to ensure clear communication and definite indicators of success. The first year HOS evaluation should consider these clearly articulated objectives.

Following is a transition timetable to facilitate the on-boarding process.
December-June
• Finalize contract
• Create a transition team or assign a person to:
o Assist with housing arrangements
o Assist with moving details
o Plan for introduction of new head to school and community
o Develop a assimilation plan
o Develop and execute the communication plan
• Provide an announcement to the school community through a letter from the Board. Clarify that the currently sitting HOS will continue to execute the full powers of his/her office until the date of transition
• Distribute press releases
• Develop and distribute to all relevant constituencies a full-color publication highlighting the transition to the new HOS.
• Identify and begin to update all publications and organization relationships with the new HOS information
• Provide reading material for the new HOS to become familiarized with the school operation. Include documents like articles, bylaws and board policy governance manual, HR manual, F&S manual, Parent/Student manual, former yearbook, accreditation documents, financials, etc.
• Schedule several new HOS campus visits. HOS availability will vary based on concurrent employment. If the school plans to require many days/hours on or off campus, consider an independent contractor agreement and remuneration for time spent:

February – Schedule the new HOS to spend a day or two on campus
• Meet with key administrators, board members and other officials to smooth transition
• Conduct consultant facilitated meeting to agree on objectives for the first 12-18 months and a method of evaluation
• Deliver reading materials for the new HOS

March – Schedule a visit to continue meetings with school, and perhaps community officials

April – Schedule a visit that will include attendance at a public event and/or a board meeting

May – Campus visit
• Conduct an induction/inauguration ceremony with reception following. Choose a staff person to chair the event, select a board member to preside at the ceremony, and include the entire school community.
• New HOS address to faculty at in-service day following school dismissal
• Staff also needs to prepare all the normal employee orientation materials, prepare the office, assure HOS support staff is in place, set up office, business cards, technology, etc. so that the first day of employment is smooth.

June or more likely July depending on availability – Begin duties as HOS
• Attend regional HOS and Division Heads Conference if available
• Plan for departure celebration for outgoing HOS
• Consider retaining an executive coach or senior level coach that is an experienced Head of School as an advisor for the new HOS
• Hire HOS assistant

July- September
• July – Consider attending the NAIS New HOS Conference
• July – Ensure sufficient vacation time for new head if necessary, especially if the head just completed a previous position June 30.
• August – Head meets with faculty members individually and conducts in-service days
• September – Schedule several social events with school community leaders, such as Parent-Teacher Fellowship leader, _________________, and _______________

September
• Schedule and conduct a 30 day evaluation. (Thinking of first year teachers here and giving them immediate observation and feedback to ensure success.
Ongoing
• Schedule regular meetings with board chair or Head of School Support and Evaluation Committee
• Conduct annual goal setting
• Perform annual head evaluation
• Do everything possible to support the new head

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