Should We Use a Firm for Our Head of School Search?


If you serve on the board of a Christian school, there is a good chance that you have been involved in at least one conversation about using a consulting firm. This may have been for help with enrollment trends, board governance training, or donor development guidance. If you have served during the time of a Head of School transition, there has likely been conversation about using a search firm.

A litany of questions can arise from board members when considering the use of an outside party to assist with a search process. Here are three questions to get your conversation started.

Do we have the time?

A successful Head of School search will take energy, focus, and time. You will need to devote a significant amount of time to: defining the needs and particulars of the role, identifying and contacting networks, sourcing potential candidates, reviewing resume materials, scheduling and conducting initial interviews, identifying semi-finalists, and having face-to-face interviews–all while making sure nothing falls through the cracks. You also need to consider the value of your time compared to the other responsibilities that search committee members are carrying out.

Search firms do this work day in and day out, with the energy and resources to stay on top of every step of the search process. At Vanderbloemen, we’re particularly focused on helping organizations staff their mission. It is our focus every day.

Do we have the network needed?

First of all, never underestimate the power of your school’s network and the personal connections of your various constituents. This is a great place to start and can often lead to quality candidates. However, it will eventually reach a limit and the pool of potential candidates may dry up. 

In a drastically changing job market, it is becoming increasingly important to cast larger nets as you search for your next Head of School. I firmly believe that God always has a perfect plan for each school, knows exactly who their Head of School will be, and brings that person along in His perfect timing. But at the start, we don’t know who that person is, and we can help do the diligent work of figuring that out in partnership with your school 

Do we have a plan?

As a board, you are charged with numerous tasks and oversight–responsible for the future of your school and keeping it focused on its mission. However, you may not have given much thought to carrying out a Head of School search. The board may not have executed a search in a while, or may not be sure where to start. Search firms are focused on the process of a search and they are experts in that field. A search firm can be brought in as an objective expert in order to partner with a board in creating a roadmap for a successful Head of School search.

A good search firm should be an expert in:

  • Understanding the nuances of a school’s DNA
  • Discerning the culture of the staff, faculty, leadership, and constituents
  • Clearly defining what a school wants versus what a school needs in their next Head of School
  • Cultivating a clear, detailed, and relevant opportunity profile based on the school’s needs
  • Assessing resumes for the necessary experience
  • Networking and recruiting within their personal and professional networks
  • Sourcing and recruiting candidates who haven’t applied for the role
  • Interviewing and thoroughly vetting candidates

Speaking of plans. If you do not anticipate needing to search for a new Head of School in the near future, it is always good to plan ahead. I would suggest creating a succession plan.

Whether your board is currently experiencing a Head of School transition, or just planning for the future, I would encourage you to discuss these questions as you consider the best possible way to search for your next Head of School.

Resources For Christian Education