search committee, head of school, board of trustees, independent schools, search process, time commitment, consultants, roles, perspectives, timeline

So, You Have Been Selected as a Search Chair, Now What?

The search chair carries significant responsibility in helping to lead a successful search for a new head of school. ‘Getting it right’ in the eyes of the school’s various constituent groups can be challenging as different groups might share different expectations. So then, where to begin? Here are a few considerations that can lead to a successful conclusion to the process, and help you sleep better at night!

Size of a Committee

Important to this consideration is the size and composition of the Search Committee. The ideal number of members is between 6-8. Consideration of what each member brings to the committee from both their individual roles and perspectives is a needed step. The ensuing conversation during deliberations is critical in building support for the chosen candidate. The chair needs to create an atmosphere in the committee setting of thoughtful and respectful dialogue by each committee member. 

Selection of a Consulting Firm to Partner with the Search Committee
A good starting point for acquiring names of firms can be sourced from your head of school, your regional association’s director, other school search/board chairs, as well as your own research. It is important to interview the consultants who will be responsible for working with your school and the search committee. Understanding the value they bring to the process makes a difference. The consultants should understand what your school is looking for in its next head, and need to understand schools and what it means to be a successful head.

Time Commitment
The timeline for conducting a search varies based on the individual needs of the school. In general, from beginning to end, the process is about six months. There are very intensive periods that can be time consuming for the committee members, but those periods are usually during the semifinalist and finalist visits. However, the chair’s responsibilities can be more time intensive due to the operational needs of the process.

There is great interest that surrounds the work of the search committee. That interest is borne of the concern for the future of the school and what implications may result. It is not unusual for members of the school community to seek proprietary information that is reserved for the committee’s work. It is important to ensure the confidential nature of the work and in protecting the candidates’ identity in the early stages of the process. The role of the chair is to stress the need for confidentiality.

The need to communicate with the school’s constituent groups cannot be overstated. Explaining the process and the timeline are important pieces of information that needs to be understood by the school community. A completed position statement should be distributed widely. That document serves as a foundation on which the school groups will understand what type of school head is being recruited. School families, faculty and alumni are all seeking assurance of continuing institutional stability and success.

There are several additional steps in the search process, and working in tandem with an experienced search firm that conducts a thoughtful and thorough search process, enables the search committee to shape the future of the school. As the chair of the search committee, finding the best firm for your search is critical, but finding the right chair for the search committee is key.