Administrative

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.
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Taking over the Struggling School: Before You Sign On
First of a series of articles on managing struggling schools. In this article we discuss what you need to do before you sign on.
Most of us like to start a project and see it through from start to finish. Signing on to run a going concern is a pretty safe bet. But what about tackling something which is going to make enormous demands on your abilities, energy and experience but which has a lot of risk? Such as taking over a struggling private school?
 
Actually, taking over anything which is struggling entails a lot of risk. Anyway, you have talent and experience. So let's examine what's involved in investigating a head of school position at a struggling school before you sign on. Here are eight keys to a successful business turnaround.
First of all, let's agree to define the struggling school as a school which is having financial difficulties. Once you understand that you are going to have to do some very heavy lifting raising money, that will help you focus on what has to be done. The truth is that most struggling schools didn't arrive in their present condition overnight. This is train wreck which the previous head of school and the board saw coming for several years before now. Things have unfortunately gotten to the point that either the school gets turned around or it closes its doors for good.
 
Let's look at some of the reasons why a school finds itself facing difficult times.
 
Its business model is flawed.
 
A flawed business model usually is the result of the trustees and administration implementing programs and structures which do not
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Dealing with Bad Press
Nobody likes bad press. Not the head of school. Not the parents. Not the teachers and staff.
"Popular teacher murdered"
"Accusations of sex abuse at prestigious private school"
"Lavish expenditures on headmaster's house renovations"
 
I am not making these up. These are examples of incidents which have actually taken place at private schools. In the course of running any business things happen which can generate negative and unwanted publicity. A private school is a business. How you handle a crisis will have a huge impact on the future of your school.
 
It's a head of school's worst nightmare to read a story about something which happened at his school.
 
It's a parent's worst nightmare to read a story about something which happened in the school her children are attending.
 
It's a teacher's worst nightmare to be in the midst of the maelstrom which is the evolving story with all its investigations.
 
The Head of School
 
21st century heads of school know that they cannot simply circle the wagons and deny the existence of the story. A couple of decades ago when social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube email and blogs did not exist, the fortress mentality was how many heads handled tough situations. You expelled a few students, fired some staff and hopefully the matter was put to rest permanently. Not any more. Unfortunately smartphones flash photos, comments and opinions around the world in seconds. Your story better deal with all those reports. Effectively. Professionally.
 
Now when bad press appears, it takes on a life of its own. It is bad enough to see a column or two in a respected national journal such
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Preventing Cyberbullying
Bullying has gone electronic. It's called cyberbullying and it is rampant.
Bullying has been part of our lives since time began. Bullying goes by different names and takes several different forms. But whether you call it intimidation or threatening, whether you do it verbally or simply with your body language, bullying is upsetting and unnerving behavior. Fortunately it is completely unacceptable in most private schools.

So, where does cyberbullying fit in? Cyberbullying or bullying done electronically is extremely difficult for adults to detect. The reason why is that cyberbullying lurks in the virtual shadows created by Facebook and cellphones. Unless you are a fan of somebody and can monitor their Facebook account or have access to their cellphone, you cannot definitively prove that cyberbullying is actually happening.

The Forms of Cyberbullying

Sexting
Sexting is the texting of sexually explicit messages or transmitting sexually explicit photos via cellphone. The problem with all these electronic forms of bullying is that once they are transmitted they are archived on a server or servers somewhere in cyberspace. Put another way, if you send a nude photograph of yourself to a lover via your cellphone, how do you know that it hasn't been forwarded to somebody else. What if you have a fight with that lover and he decides to take revenge. Well, it's not a pretty picture.

Teens, and girls in particular, seem to be more susceptible to this form of bullying. That's because they take cellphones and other forms of electronic communication for granted. Many girls feel that sexting
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Developing A Strategic Plan
Developing a strategic plan is an exercise your school will probably undergo once a decade or so. Read what Alan Kennedy has to say on the subject.
 
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 plan will
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Does Your School Avoid Politics?
Does your school avoid politics? You might want to make sure it does if you are set up as a non-profit corporation.
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 record those memberships
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