Five Key Reasons to Develop a Head Evaluation Process

Vol. 13 No. 6

trustees eletter vol13 no6 fivekeyreasons

When it comes to evaluating the School Head, many Boards simply avoid the process. Their rationale is, “Everything’s fine! Why take on another time-consuming, bureaucratic task?” In other schools, the Board President distributes an all-purpose leadership ratings form of some sort, tallies the results, and sets up a meeting with the Head to make a few suggestions. Neither tactic proves helpful for the School Head looking for direction and support.

So, why go to all the trouble of setting up a true evaluation process—forming a Head Support and Evaluation Committee (HSEC), determining criteria and method, putting it into practice, and fine-tuning it yearly as ISM suggests? Here are five key reasons.

  1. The Board must exercise due diligence, and Head evaluation is one of the components. Failure by a Board to define expectations for—and assess the performance of—its single employee constitutes prima facie disservice to the individual and the institution. It also leaves the Board vulnerable if it becomes necessary to fire the Head and must demonstrate that he or she is not meeting these poorly defined (or undefined) standards.
  2. Head evaluation advances the school. The primary purpose of this process is to improve the school. Yes, it is called “evaluation” and it focuses upon one individual, but its goal is to strengthen the institution. The School Head is the Chief Executive. The ripple effects from her or his actions, decisions, priorities, and management/leadership approaches go a long way toward determining the character and quality of the school. An evaluation approach that makes this individual better—or, in a worst-case scenario, determines that this is a “bad institutional marriage”—advances the school.
  3. Head evaluation supports the strategic plan. It offers the most appropriate and effective method of overseeing, influencing, and—when necessary—directing the operations-level implementation of the school’s planning document. The annual Board agenda is the mechanism at the governance level.
  4. Head evaluation keeps the Board connected with the present. The Board concentrates on the future, focusing on strategic planning and strategic financial planning. As a result, it may inadvertently fall into the trap of allowing day-to-day operations to take care of themselves. Current actions must, every day, clearly reflect the school’s longer-term plans, and must build a platform, every day, for those plans’ eventual fruition. The Board’s primary charge is to guard and support the school’s strategic future; that may be jeopardized if the present is not overseen appropriately. But rather than have the full Board keep an eye on current events, delegate that responsibility to the HSEC.
  5. Head evaluation supports the school’s leader. When Head evaluation is done well, it comes across as a mentoring process, rather than as judgment or criticism. It is a productive vehicle for providing advice, counsel, and support.

Approach Head evaluation in the same way your best teachers approach their students: assume that people are able learners and performers, and provide consistent direction and support. Subtract one or both of those two ingredients (i.e., consistent direction and support) either from the classroom or from the School Head’s office, and you can expect confusion, anxiety, and—at best—erratic performance.

Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Trustees Vol. 12 No. 9 The Basics of a Head Contract
ISM Monthly Update for Trustees Vol. 11 No. 10 How to Enhance Board-Head Relationships

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 30 No. 7 The Head Support and Evaluation Committee: What Does ‘Support’ Actually Mean?
I&P Vol. 33 No. 2 Your Head Support and Evaluation Committee: A Checklist
I&P Vol. 35 No. 13 The Head Support and Evaluation Committee: Subtleties

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