Working Through the Confusion of Leadership Change In the Christian School
Christian schools are looking for leadership that is biblical, professional, full of integrity, and focused on bringing potential change and vigor to stagnant missions and stalling enrollments. The challenge is great. Key leaders are not located around every corner, and schools are faced with a great dilemma… “who is to lead the school forward.”
Perhaps your school has grown, and enrollment peaked at one point in time, perhaps not even too long ago. But today it is in decline. It’s easy to identify the problem as one of economy and perhaps more competition. But is that true? How do you know that your school is on the right path in finding qualified leadership to guide you in the coming decade and beyond? Let’s examine a few issues.
Identifying One Leader
The key leader of your school should be seen as the gatekeeper… the one person the school can point toward as its “head of school.” This position cannot be shared in any type of dual role. I recently learned of a school’s football team that appointed “co-head coaches”. I wonder how that will turn out. I have my suspicions. I can almost guess what the outcome of their season will be. Organizations, including football teams and Christian schools, need one key leader or they are headed down a course that will likely lead to a dangerous conclusion. Whatever the title may be called Superintendent, Headmaster, President, Chief Administrator, Head of School, or some other such name, the implication is clear… “Leader.” The school must appoint one.
Principal Only Leadership
In these tough financial times, some schools have taken to the thinking that the principals can run the school with no true Head of School for the time being. For instance, a school of 400 may decide to abandon having a Superintendent in favor of saving some of its payroll expenses and allowing an Elementary Principal and Middle School/High School Principal to be the “leaders” of the school. This will not work! Imagine, for instance, an issue that affects the entire school. What happens if both principals arrive at different conclusions on how the matter should be handled? Does the board step in? This is not a healthy option, so who makes the final decision?
Business Head vs. Educational Head
Schools are beginning to recognize the need to better handle their financial operations than in the past, and in many cases believe those to be on the same level of educational matters. Financial operations are essential and must be handled with absolute focused integrity and control. However, it becomes a mistake in a Christian school to consider the position of “business head” as the true Head of the school. In the same way, Christian schools can ill-afford to have an educational Head of School who is completely ignorant of school financial operations. How then shall this be handled?
The role of the Christian school is first and foremost to educate. Financial operations and growth/improvement in this area are obviously essential but understand that the school must be led by one person. Schools wanting to have a business head and an educational head will run into “Head” strong problems when it comes down to making tough decisions. You can imagine the scenarios. Just think of the potential problems. The buck must always stop with a top staff person, not two.
It is said (and I firmly agree) that the school will take on the personality of its leader. It will better focus on its vision and mission with the right Head of School in the lead, not through any form of dual leadership. Dual leadership could drive the school to schizophrenic behavior and leave many people to wonder who really does make the final decision.
Leadership change can be difficult in certain circumstances. Seek professional guidance through a consultant or other qualified experts who have spent many years helping Christian schools assess themselves, change, and grow.
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