Administrative | PrivateSchoolReview.com

Here you'll find information on the administrative side of running a private school. We'll cover strategic plan development, state regulations, human resources and school safety. Learn more about the obstacles of taking over a struggling school, get tips on hiring a headmaster, and receive expert advice on dealing with bad press.
View the most popular articles in Administrative:
Your worst nightmare is unfolding. The Board has asked you, as Head, to prepare a strategic plan for the school. Before you even start, consider these three tips.

1. Conduct a Rigorous Situation Assessment
A plan is only as good as the facts on which it is based. For this reason, a situation assessment is essential to support informed decision making in strategic planning. A situation assessment addresses three major topics.

Know the Board's Appetite for Change
Be sure to scope the Board's appetite for change. After all, the Board will ultimately be asked to approve the strategic plan and the allocation of resources to support its implementation. If the Board doesn't buy into your plan, then the strategic planning process could come to an inglorious end, when presented to that very same unsuspecting Board by the soon-to-be ex-Head. With the Board on your side, at least you can do some proper advance preparing and lobbying on issues you know the Board finds difficult to accept.

Document the Way Things Work Today
Don't assume that you - or anyone else, especially the Board - understands the way things actually happen at the school.
  • Prepare a detailed description of every major functional area.
  • Include everything from the administrative functions through to the academic functions.
  • Identify who is responsible for the functional activity, the activities being managed, the way the activities are managed, staffing, and budget.
Without these descriptions in hand, it becomes almost impossible to describe how any change proposed in the strategic . . .read more
Does your school avoid politics? You might want to make sure it does if you are set up as a non-profit corporation. If your school is exempt from taxes under the provisions of Section 501 (c3) of the Tax Code, it must refrain from conducting political activities designed to influence political elections.
 

Intramural elections are exempt
Putting up posters and holding rallies for student council president are not generally considered a violation of the 'no politicking' provisions of the law. Internal or with in the bounds of the school community activities are acceptable. Read Rules for Exempt Organizations During an Election Year for further guidance.
 

Politicking for local, state and federal issues and candidates forbidden
In an election year where emotions are running high and record numbers of young people are being drawn into the process, you need to be very careful that your school complies with the law. Make sure you state your policy clearly in the school's handbook. Enforce that policy. The last thing you need is for somebody to file a complaint with the IRS and put your tax-exempt status in jeopardy.
 

Prove your 'no politicking' policy in your Form 990 filing
Schedule A of Form 990 gives you a place to document your 'lobbying' activites or lack thereof. Remember: your school's membership in NAIS and other regional independent school organizations can be construed as 'lobbying'.  Generally the amount spent on memberships is relatively insignificant when compared to your overall expenditures. Just be certain to . . .read more
Douglas Halladay heads The Halladay Group, a consulting firm which specializes in all aspects of private school operations. We asked him how to advise a board of trustees on a headmaster search. His answers follow.
 
We aggressively seek candidates for you who combine strong administrative skills and outstanding management abilities with dynamic leadership experience. Included below is the model that we utilize.

Step 1: Initial Meeting

During our first meeting with the client, we review your organization regarding the position to be filled. We also seek to understand the organization's environment, which includes learning about the culture, norms, philosophy, history, work atmosphere, and personalities of the people and community this person will work for and with, as well as coming to know what causes individual success or failure at this organization and thoroughly understanding the vision of the organization. If confidentiality allows, we spend time with the supervisor and peers of the position in order to determine the management's style and personality. Since our goal is to find someone in whom the community will have confidence, both in ability and in style, this part of the process is crucial.
 

 

Step 2: Position Profile

HEG next prepares a Position Profile that describes the client organization, details the nature of the position, the key issues facing the new leader, and the qualities and experience possessed by the ideal candidate. This document, once approved by the client, serves as the primary instrument to communicate the opportunity during . . .read more
You have spent a year as trustee of St. Etheldreda's. You have attended all the meetings. Recently you were appointed to the finance committee. The nagging question keeps chewing at you. "How do we know that our employees aren't stealing from us?" After all, hardly a day goes by without yet another report of some trusted employee stealing from one organization or another.
 
You simply have to ask these tough questions of your business manager and your auditor.

1.   Does one person have control over all of your accounting functions?
2.   Are two signatures required on checks over a pre-determined amount - say, $500?
3.   Are checks ever pre-signed?
4.   Are your bank accounts consolidated so that your book keeping accurately reflects the school's true financial position?
5.   Is there petty cash lying around?
6.   Are different people assigned to the deposit and account reconciliation functions?
7.   Do you have a purchase order system?
8.   Does your committe review expenses and supporting vouchers carefully and frequently?
9.   Does an outside auditor review your books annually?
10. Do you run background checks and speak to references before you hire?
 

Insist that your school be run like a business
Some schools find it difficult to implement standard business practices. Even when they do, they can find it even more difficult to stick to those practices. Be careful of the trusted old employee who's been there forever and resists your updated business procedures. Reassigning him or her to some other function and . . .read more
Safe schools are everybody's concern these days. Years ago you worried about keeping the dormitory doors locked at night and making sure the trip to New York City was properly chaperoned. It was so simple.

Now parents, teachers and students have to deal with cyber-security, stalkers, substance abuse, suicide and a host of other really tough issues. How does a school community cope with safety? Let's take a look.
 

Improve your communications
In a very small school (100 students or less) you might be able to get away with the old-fashioned telephone tree where one person calls five others and so on. The problem with this method of alerting the community is that there are always a few people who don't get called. Install a web-based notification system and most of your worries will be over. Web-based notification systems use text messages, email and web sites to communicate news instantly to every member of your community. Whether the news is a weather-related closing or an accident involving one of your teams, it is received instantly. You can alert your community to whatever the bad news is before it hits the media.


Improve your training
Pretending issues don't exist is simply stupid and irresponsible. It also exposes your school to amazing amounts of legal liability. Every school operates in loco parentis. Don't take that responsibility lightly.

Hold seminars for every member of your community on the big issues such as sexual harrassment, hazing . . .read more
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