Before school winds down for the holidays, I thought I would share a quick update on the search for our next Head of School.
The beginnings of the search process are underway, and the Search Committee met earlier this month with our consultants from Spencer Stuart to begin discussing qualities we hope to see in our next Head. That process will be furthered over two days in early January when the consultants spend time meeting with various constituencies throughout the school and gathering information and feedback on what the school is looking for as a whole. These meetings will be vitally important to the process, both to inform the Search Committee as well as the creation of the position specification for our new Head.
I hope everyone has returned from a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday refueled and refreshed after time with family and friends. Before the break, I referenced in my letter regarding Dr. Leonard Kupersmith’s retirement that it is my intention to communicate with you often about the search for our next Head of School, and today will be the inaugural communication.
I want to share my gratitude for the privilege of serving as the eighth headmaster of Christ Church Episcopal School. At school and in the community, I have been blessed by friendships, collegiality, and collaboration. From my arrival on campus on a weekend in mid-August 2006 when Bill Preston, Doug Qualls' predecessor, greeted me warmly and gave me a tour, I have lived and worked among the kindest and most generous people I know.
The search will kick off at the start of 2019 with our consultants spending two days on campus meeting with a wide variety of CCES’s constituents. The product of these conversations with will be a position specification outlining the state of the school, the position, and the qualities we collectively seek in a new head. The Search Committee, with help from Spencer Stuart, will work over the next several months to develop a candidate pool which the Search Committee will review. In the late spring semi-finalists will interview and meet with the Search Committee and Faculty & Staff Advisory Committee. Finalists will then visit campus with their spouse for broader discussion and deeper engagement. Ideally, the Board of Trustees would come to an agreement on the next Head of School with an announcement made in early summer. We will not sacrifice completeness in developing and assessing the best possible candidates, however, and if necessary, will extend the search to completion in early fall. Under this timeline, the new head would then have one year to aid in his or her sending school’s transition and hopefully engage with the CCES community before taking the reins July 1, 2020.
Spencer Stuart is a globally known search consulting firm with an education division that has performed searches for many of the best schools in the nation. Chuck Jordan, our lead consultant, recently completed the search for the new head at Charlotte Latin, placed CCES’s former Upper School Director, Pete Sanders, at the Memphis University School, and placed the new head of the Woodberry Forest School, among many other notable searches.
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 an outstanding Head of School for day-to-day management and executive leadership of CCES.
The Search Committee is tasked with identifying and evaluating candidates for Head of School and making a final recommendation to the Board of Trustees. The Board will then vote on the appointment of the proposed candidate as Head of School.
CCES Bylaws dictate that the Search Committee be populated by members of the Board of Trustees and include the Rector of Christ Church Episcopal and the Vestry Representative. Members are selected by the Chair of the Board and approved by the Board of Trustees.
While the Board is responsible for the ultimate decision-making in the search process, the opinions and insights of the faculty and staff are critical to the process. The Search Committee will appoint a Faculty & Staff Advisory Committee to act in a consultative role to the Search Committee during this process.
While the Board is responsible for hiring the next Head of School, the opinions, insights, and ideas from all CCES stakeholders will be incredibly helpful in guiding Spencer Stuart in the search for possible candidates as well as the Search Committee in the selection of candidates, finalists, and the appointee.
Spencer Stuart will spend two days on campus in early January 2019 meeting with a wide variety of constituents including parents and parent leaders, trustees, alumni, faculty and staff, administrators, students, and other stakeholders in our community. During these meetings our consultants will share information about the search, but their primary goal will be to learn about CCES, gather information about short and long-term priorities, and hear what qualities our community believes the next Head of School should possess. These conversations will inform the position specification which will be sent to possible candidates. We will also have a “town hall” style meeting where any community members are welcome to come learn and ask questions about the search process. In addition, we will offer an online survey so that all stakeholders can offer similar input about our School’s next leader if they are unable to attend sessions in person.
Prior to the announcement of Dr. Leonard Kupersmith’s retirement, the Board convened a Transition Planning Committee, which was charged with understanding the search process and interviewing search firms. Through its due diligence the committee learned a great deal about how various search models work, which process tends to yield the best candidate pools, and what process candidates are most comfortable with in today’s independent school environment. We learned that a head of school search process differs greatly than that of a search for an Assistant Head or Division Director, largely because of the fundraising, recruiting, and public-facing responsibilities of a head, and that a candidate-centric model has been used with great effectiveness by our peer schools in the region as well as many in our INDEX group. In today’s independent search world, the best candidates place high value on their confidentiality, making the best process candidate-centric. The few schools we spoke to who chose another model all recognized they were losing highly qualified candidates for consideration because the search model used was not candidate-centric.
We discovered the vast majority of high-performing candidates place such a priority on their confidentiality that they not will agree to enter a search if their candidacy publicized at any stage. While finalists disclose their candidacy to their direct supervisors, the candidate’s effectiveness at his or her current school can be compromised if teachers, staff, parents, and students were to also learn that their head or another key administrator is involved in a search. Our firm, Spencer Stuart, is well-known for producing top-quality candidates who were not actively pursuing other opportunities prior to receiving their call and were very happy in their current positions. These types of candidates are usually in top administrative positions or sitting heads of their current school and do not wish for their candidacy elsewhere to be widely known and perhaps jeopardize or undermine their current posting. The same is usually true for top internal candidates. A candidate-centric approach respects the confidentiality of all candidates and will ensure that the highest caliber candidate pool is available for the Search Committee’s consideration. The Transition Planning Committee agreed that developing the best possible candidate pool from which to choose our next head is top priority and believes Spencer Stuart will deliver on this priority.
As Chair of the Board, Cary Weekes will update the community on a regular basis about the progress of the search. All updates will come via email and will be posted on this page as well. The Board is committed to being as transparent about the process as is feasible without breaking confidences of the candidates, so it is our pledge to inform often with as much detail as is feasible. If you have a question, please feel free to reach out to the Search Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All members of the CCES community will have the opportunity to express their opinions on the next Head of School over two days in early January. For those not able to attend, an online survey will be circulated to the community as well. You may always send an email with your insights to the Search Committee at email@example.com or to our consultants at Spencer Stuart at CCESHOS@spencerstuart.com.
CCES is a high-performing independent school and we expect this position to garner attention from a national, and potentially international, pool of highly qualified candidates. The Search Committee recognizes that CCES’s culture and the region and city in which we live are unique and, accordingly, will seek candidates whose temperaments, values, and personal styles are compatible with our culture.
When the Board set out to understand the current head search landscape, we discovered that highly qualified candidates in jobs they love, prefer to give their sending schools ample time to search for their replacement. Giving the appointee a full year offers them that latitude and is indicative of the CCES’s Episcopal Identity tenet of respect for others.
While we recognize the choice of title is based primarily on cultural norms, institutional history, and the choice of the individual named, for the purposes of the search we are using “Head of School” to be equally open to men or women who might choose to lead the School.