2017 NAIS Survey for New Heads of Schools


The NAIS Survey for New Heads of Schools was designed to examine experiences of new heads of NAIS schools during their job search, selection, and transition into headship.  

This report discusses the finding of the 2017 study based on the responses of 173 survey participants. It covers the following range of aspects: demographic characteristics of new heads, their search and application process, experience with search firms, considerations of equity and diversity, accepting headship, transition into the new position, the overall experience, and school characteristics. 

Executive Summary  

About 70 percent of new heads applied to headships that were a stretch to their skills and abilities. School culture was the most common key motivator to apply for a headship (31 percent), while the compensation package was not considered to be the most important factor by anyone.  

Nearly 60 percent of the respondents worked with search firms, and men were more likely than women to use a search firm at some point during their job search (88 percent versus 73 percent). Experiences working with the search firms were predominantly positive (75 percent). The search firms were most helpful in providing thorough information about the job and answering questions about the position and the school. 

The importance of equity or diversity in the search was discussed by only about a half of the search firms and the search committees (46 and 55 percent, respectively). 

A lack of previous experience as a head was the candidates’ top reason for not being selected after the final round (32 percent). The most common reason to turn down a headship or opt out during the finalist stage was school location (38 percent), while the alignment between the school culture/philosophy and own views was the most influential factor in accepting the position (35 percent). 

Over 60 percent of new heads had a transition plan designed for them. The most common challenge of transitioning into headship was understanding board/head relationships (21 percent). 

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