These are challenging times we live in! The impact that Covid-19 has had on international schools is widespread and significant. For all schools there has been a need to pivot quickly to online learning and to create procedures for keeping social distancing bubbles in place. For many schools, expatriate families may have relocated which impacts student numbers … which puts immense pressure on balancing the budget.
😰 These are stressful times! And so I appeal to you if you are serving on the board (board of governors or board of trustees in many international schools), to pause and reflect for a moment on the support you are giving to the Head of School.
The Head of School (HoS) is a lonely position with very few people she or he can confide in. As the leader of the school, everyone expects the HoS to be a towering strength in these uncertain times. Since international schools are generally small communities, the HoS cannot share concerns or fears with anyone, except perhaps the board. But then again, the HoS will be evaluated by that same board, and so may be reluctant to share those fears or weaknesses!
The board is responsible for supporting, nurturing and challenging the Head of School. As the board’s sole, or at least the most significant, employee, it is important for the board to reflect on the ways in which they support the HoS.
There is a danger that the pressure of balancing budgets and pressing school issues leads to excessive and continuous pressure being applied to the HoS. It’s the board’s responsibility to be alert to the signs of excessive stress which may manifest in illness, erratic behaviour or seeking solace in alcohol or avoiding meetings. Pause to reflect on the damage to the school and your reputation if the HoS is unable to cope – and the consequences of a breakdown or resignation.
The Quick Tips below should give you some starting points for discussion among your fellow board members.
By the way, there are also leadership mentoring programmes you may wish to consider for the HoS and/or Chair