What is the timeline for the search?
The search began in mid-February with on-campus meetings with our search firm, Brigham Hill. The consultants met with faculty, staff, parents, students, and board members, and the product of these conversations and an online survey will be the search profile, which describes the school, the position, and the qualities we seek in the next head of school. The search firm will use that information to generate a pool of prospective candidates and will report back to the Search Committee sometime around the end of the school year. Over the summer, the consultants will personally interview a number of prospective candidates and will provide detailed information to the Search Committee in advance of meeting with the committee to determine semifinalist candidates. During the latter part of the summer, the Search Committee will interview semifinalists, with the hope that finalists will be invited for meetings with a broader range of Prospect Sierra constituents in the fall. If all goes well, the school will appoint a candidate and an announcement will be made in mid- to late fall. The new head of school will take office officially in July 2019.
Why does the search take so long?
Head of school searches are unique. A number of factors have combined over the years to make the above timetable typical for any head of school search. These factors include contracts between schools and their heads, the custom of a head of school providing substantial notice to his or her school, the desire for the entire school community to be involved in the search, the need for candidates and Search Committees to have time for deliberation and reflection, and scheduling issues.
What is the role of the Board of Trustees in the search for the permanent head of school? What is the role of the Search Committee? What roles will faculty, staff, parents, students, and other constituents have in the process?
The primary role of the Board of Trustees is to ensure the long-term success and sustainability of the school; the Board’s most important responsibility is hiring the head of school, who is responsible for the day-to-day management and leadership of the school.
The Search Committee is tasked with identifying and evaluating candidates for the headship and making a final recommendation to the Board of Trustees. The Board then votes on the appointment of the candidate as head of school.
While the Board is responsible for the ultimate decision-making in the search process, the opinions and insights of faculty, staff, parents, students, and others are critical to the process. Opportunities to provide input about the school and the qualities sought in the next head of school are discussed below.
How was the Search Committee appointed?
Because the most important responsibility of any Board of Trustees is the hiring of the Head of School, the Search Committee has been comprised of a majority of current Board members, all of whom are also current and former parents or grandparents and many of whom are professional educators. A faculty representative and a staff representative have also been appointed to the committee to ensure that the search benefits from the perspectives of faculty and staff, who are engaged in the daily life of the school. Specific qualities sought in Search Committee members include the abilities to think about the school from a strategic perspective, to balance long- and short-term goals, to devote the substantial time necessary at various stages of the process, and to maintain confidentiality in order to ensure candidates’ willingness to enter into conversations about the opportunity.
Who is the search firm?
Brigham Hill Consultancy is a retained executive search firm that serves only not-for-profit organizations, and specializes in independent school head of school and senior administrative searches. The firm’s founder and president, Linc Eldredge, will lead our search in partnership with his colleague, Jessica McCann. Brigham Hill is a national firm with clients across the country. More about the firm can be found online www.brighamhill.com.
How can I express my opinions about the search and the future of Prospect Sierra?
The first opportunity to provide input was during Brigham Hill’s on-campus visit in February. Those who could not attend the in-person meetings or who had additional input to share, were invited to complete an online questionnaire. Both Brigham Hill and the Search Committee reviewed responses. In addition, questions and comments can be directed to the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What information will the Search Committee share with the school community regarding the progress and the candidates being considered?
The Search Committee will provide periodic updates and communicate the general progress of the search throughout the process, and is committed to being as transparent as possible. In order to protect the current positions of candidates, however, the committee is cannot disclose the names of people under consideration or when they will be in El Cerrito for the first round of interviews. Finalist interviews may include members of the school community beyond the Search Committee, depending on the degree of confidentiality required by the candidates.
When we bring candidates for division headships or other administrative positions to campus, everything is usually out in the open and transparent. Why is this process so confidential?
In all likelihood, head of school candidates who come to meet with the Search Committee will have either declared to their current schools their intentions to explore a move or, at the very least, informed the people to whom they report. In the latter case, the proper courtesies will have been extended, but an individual’s openness to a new situation is still considered confidential. Our search firm is known for approaching people who are not considering making a move, inviting them into a conversation about such a possibility, evaluating their backgrounds in a personal meeting and, if appropriate, prevailing on them to make an exploratory trip to El Cerrito. In such a situation, the person may or may not have disclosed the candidacy to his or her chair of the board or head of school and, accordingly, would want to make the visit in strict confidence and on a purely exploratory basis. Needless to say, we would have to ensure such conditions in order to convince the person to visit with us. Finally, it is important that the process be carried out with fairness and equity to all of the candidates. Among other things, this means that we should keep all of their identities confidential, regardless of what they may or may not have said to their current schools. This approach also ensures that interviewing and referencing are conducted in an orderly, thorough, and professional way.
How will members of the Prospect Sierra community be involved in the search process?
As noted above, our search firm visited our campuses in February for meetings with faculty, staff, parents, students, and board members. These conversations will inform the search profile, which will be used to promote the opening. Community members also shared input via the online survey.
It is the Search Committee’s hope that the finalist stage of the search will also include similar involvement from a broad range of Prospect Sierra constituents. However, our consultants have advised us that candidates are increasingly concerned about confidentiality even at the finalist stage of a search process. It is important to keep in mind that, while the finalists may have disclosed their candidacies to their direct supervisors, it can be very disruptive to a school community if teachers, staff members, parents, and students were also to learn that their head or another key administrator is involved in a search. The Search Committee may be faced with a choice between having a more “closed” process or losing exceptional candidates. The committee is committed to having as much involvement as possible from stakeholders beyond the Search Committee at the finalist stage, and it is our hope that the finalist process will include open meetings with faculty, staff, parents, and students. We will make a determination about the exact structure of the finalist visits later in the search process.
How can I recommend a candidate?
Please send an email to Jessica McCann of Brigham Hill Consultancy at email@example.com.
How long do we expect the new head of school to stay?
The average tenure of a head of school is approximately five years, and the median tenure is closer to seven years. Generally speaking, at least a seven- or eight-year term is considered appropriate for school heads. We are approaching the search with a ten-year horizon. We will ask ourselves what Prospect Sierra will look like in a decade and what actions need to be taken in order to meet our goals, and then we will use this perspective to develop the profile in hopes that the new head will serve for at least approximately ten years. Our primary focus is on finding the right person to do the job.
Should this person now be a head of school?
Very possibly, but not necessarily. There are obvious benefits to recruiting someone who has already been a head because he or she would have learned quite a bit about the position, would undoubtedly have made some mistakes and learned from them, and presumably would bring maturity and perspective to the role. On the other hand, someone who has been an assistant head of school or division head with notable authority and autonomy, who has been well mentored, who has experiences that are sought by Prospect Sierra, and whose leadership manner and style are compelling, would also be of great interest. Remaining open to the possibility of a first-time head of school may also increase our chances of generating a diverse candidate pool, particularly considering that people of color and white women are still underrepresented at the head of school level. The search is structured to invite a variety of prospective candidates, both sitting heads and others, and the Search Committee will evaluate each case on its own merits to determine whether or not to continue discussions with a given individual.
Is this a national search?
Yes. There is intense competition across the country for accomplished educational leaders. Thus we will invite candidates from any and all geographic areas. We recognize that the Bay Area is unique and, accordingly, we will seek people whose temperaments, values, and personal styles are compatible with our culture.