An Inside Look at Becoming a Head of School

October 19, 2015 Peter Baron

I’m such a fan of the backstory. It’s the main reason I love producing the podcast — being able to learn and share how each guest achieved success acts as a huge motivator.

That brings me to a topic I’ve always been curious about — becoming a head of school.

At what point does someone make the decision that they want to lead a community? How do they prepare for the actual search? What surprises pop up along the way? Once appointed, what are some of the ways to connect with the school community? And, most importantly, what did the first year look like (is it like drinking from a fire hose?)?

Lots of questions, right?

In episode 17 of Blackbaud K-12’s Get Connected podcast, Suzanne Buck, Rector, Chatham Hall in Chatham, Virginia, joins me to answer everything above.

If you’re not familiar with Suzanne, prior to joining Chatham Hall in 2014, Suzanne was the Director of Enrollment Management at New Hampton School where she enjoyed tremendous success. Diving into her work there could be its own episode, but to name a couple of highlights, she and her team increased applications by close to 50% and dramatically reduced attrition.

In our conversation about becoming a head, Suzanne talks about leaving the enrollment management chair to become a head of school. I’m fascinated by the shift and am excited for you to hear about the process and the experiences that come with the first year of leading a school community.

For an overview of what we covered, make sure to check out the episode notes below.

You have a few listening options. Download the episode, listen to the podcast below or subscribe to our channel on iTunes!

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Episode Notes

  • Suzanne introduces herself and Chatham Hall.
  • Before becoming a head of school, Suzanne served as the Director of Enrollment Management at New Hampton School. She talks about the decision process that inspired her to make the jump from the lead admission seat to head.
  • Hear how she approached the search for a head’s position. We also talk about how the role of enrollment manager uniquely prepared Suzanne to lead a school community.
  • Don’t miss out on this part of the conversation — learn what surprised Suzanne the most in the search/interview process.
  • Given we’re at the very start of the new year, and a whole new class of heads of schools are getting familiar with the position, Suzanne talks about the process of graduating from director to head.
  • A big part of being successful in year one is getting to know the school community. Learn what steps Suzanne took to introduce herself.
  • Managing the transition from admissions to the head of school can be tricky given the enormity of the position. Listen to understand how Suzanne shifted her thinking and “persona” as she assumed the “CEO” position.
  • What are some of the leadership challenges that a new head can expect coming into the position? Suzanne dives into this to help aspiring heads prepare for the transition.

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