Head Transition Timeline

Spring 2015

By Marc Levinson

Year 1

January (or earlier)

  • Head discusses his/her departure with the board.
  • Board selects a search committee chair.
  • Search committee is formed.

February – March

  • Search committee creates a request for proposal for a search firm (very few schools do this without assistance).
  • Search committee reviews proposals from four to seven firms.
  • Search consultant is hired.

March – April

  • Search consultant conducts research, meets with school people, and helps school craft the position paper, etc. — this time is very important for the search firm to get to know the culture of the school.
  • Search firm begins to identify potential candidates.

May – June

  • Search firm continues to identify candidates and begins the initial interview process.
  • Search committee begins to review candidates (on paper).
  • Search firm and committee meet to review candidates.

June – July

  • Search committee chair or others may visit/interview candidates.

July – August

  • Candidate pool is narrowed to a group of semifinalists — this is typically around 10 candidates.

August – September

  • Candidates are interviewed by search committee. Typically this will be for a very short period of time — perhaps as short as one to two hours and typically at a location near the school, but not at the school. At this time, the process is still very confidential.

September – October

  • Search committee will narrow the field to two to four finalists. These candidates are typically invited to visit the school for a multiday interview process, which has been described to me by heads that had been through the process as “grueling.”
  • This now becomes a transparent process in most cases. The candidates need to inform their current schools (or employers). This is the time for the candidates to “sell” themselves to the school and vice-versa.
  • These interviews will typically occur as close together as possible. The search committee will ideally meet immediately after the last interview is complete to make a decision.

October – November

  • References are checked to a limited degree for all finalists and then to a higher degree for the candidate that is offered the position. This work should be accomplished by the search committee and not by the consultants.
  • Contract negotiation begins — typically this will be between the search committee chair and the candidate. Again, the consultants should not be directly involved in this process.
  • Contract is signed and announcements are made at both schools.

November – December

  • It is important to note that the school where the new head is leaving must now deal with its own process. If the person is a current head, then it is obvious that the time line is very different. Search firms have told me that there are still plenty of good people to hire at this point, but the process is accelerated.
  • In many cases the school will decide to hire an interim, and then the calendar is on track as indicated here.

Year 2

January – June

  • This can be a difficult time for all involved. The outgoing head is in an unusual position requiring budget and staffing decisions that will impact his/her successor. In some cases the new head will be consulted, but this is not a normal occurrence.
  • The other school is going through the same process and set of decisions. Most hiring decisions are made in February – March of each year.
Marc Levinson

Marc Levinson is a contributor to Independent School Magazine.