Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's September, so it must be time for me to re-rack my school search

I have over the last several months continued to muse and meditate on my call to return to an independent school. Is it really what I want? Be careful what you ask for. What skills do I truly bring to the table? Where can I really add value to a school community?

One thing I've settled on is that seeking a straight faculty job is probably not wise; I'll continue to come up empty. There are a myriad of reasons for this, but age and family situation top the list. Age and family bring a host of considerations: housing, salaries, benefits (such as tuition). I'm starting to look mighty expensive for a classroom teacher, particularly when teachers just out of school or with, even, six to ten years of experience can be had for much less cost to the school.

Clearly, from just the practical standpoint, serving as a classroom teacher looks more and more less likely.

Couple this with a review of my professional experience, teaching experience, and education, and it appears obvious: I'm more suited to a head of school or associate head role, even with a dearth of recent school experience.

Recently, I was sussing out the Small Business Administration's SCORE capabilities for a friend who owns a small bakery and cafe. As I was looking at a list of SCORE counselors, all retired business owners who now serve as consultants through the SCORE program, I found a local counselor who is the former head of a small, independent school. I wrote him, and here's his reply:
I retired in 19XX from the [-------] School in [-------] City; I still keep in contact, but I really have no idea of the job market.

In looking at your cv I would say it looks attractive but if I were on a search committee I would be more interested in the references - especially the Wyoming Seminary and the Walnut Hill School - both places I knew about during the late 70's through early 90's - but I would surely want to have a way to contact those (or other references). The military references, although more current, would be of little interest.

In going to a small school I would want to see some experience or interest in financial management - especially fund accounting as used by non profit corporations (501 c 3), and certainly some experience or interest in fund raising - projects (auctions, magazine sales, etc.) and soliciting funds through gifts - especially the Annual Fund. as a head you will have a part to play in that less attractive activity.

I didn't notice you personal statistics - age, marriage?, and other things that a hiring agent cannot ask but will help (or hinder) your application - if you go to a Christian school you probably won't be hired if you are an atheist - but no one can ask you that on an application.
What are your thoughts? Am I on the righ track? Certainly, I can teach, but would I bring better value to a school as a senior leader? Is my lack of recent school experience a huge hindrance? Is the SCORE counselor right and a dearth of financial experience the kiss of death for a head of school search?

If you follow me in my @School2CallHome persona, you know that the Little School on the Prairie is looking for a head of school; my letter's in, but I've yet to hear anything. Too soon.


The picture with this post is by David Morris who posts at flickr as iowa_spirit_walker; the picture is used here with his kind permission and under a Creative Commons license.

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