Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why a Job Description is Critical for a Charter School Administrator

Charter school leaders, rarely comfortable being put in a box, use a variety of titles for their number one administrator: Head of School, Principal, Executive Director, and Director are just a few. For this post, I'll use the term "Principal" to talk about the lead administrator.

Charter schools use a variety of structures to meet the school's administrative needs. Some charter school governing boards have one person report to the board (considered a best practice) and some have two or more. This means that unless there are clear job descriptions, it's difficult, and sometimes impossible, for administrators to know what is their responsibility.

This is also true when the charter school governing board has a very involved President. Having a board member do some of the functions commonly delegated to the Principal presents problems. Once the Principal's job description is established, and a Principal is hired, there shouldn't be any deviation from that outline of responsibilities. If a board member temporarily assists the Principal with a responsibility, it should be clear to all involved that the board member is doing it as a "volunteer" without board authority to lead or make decisions.

Many administrators are wary of charter school governing boards, especially when they don't have processes and policies established such as the job description, Principal evaluation form, and Principal evaluation policy. Not having these things appropriately documented shows potential Principal candidates that the board hasn't reached a level of capacity to successfully lead a charter school. Since it's hard to find a really good Principal, boards that fail to develop processes and policies are often left with less-than-ideal Principal candidates.

It's common for there to be confusion about what is the Principal's role versus the governing board's role. Here is a worksheet to discuss the various responsibilities and note who is responsible. Having roles clearly defined, and documented, is a way to mitigate potential conflicts or miscommunication.

Because charter schools are so unique and utilize a variety of organizational structures, school leaders need to take the precaution of documenting as much as possible before the first Principal is hired.

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