Schools: What are you looking for?

As I discussed in my earlier blog post asking what teachers are looking for, the same holds true for schools. Does your school have a stable and balanced faculty? In other words, does your school see turnover in line with national standards and does your faculty profile show balance with regard to new, established, and veteran teachers? With hiring season underway, schools must address a duality: gain as the result of loss. At times, turnover can be a healthy event for schools, as it allows schools to counsel out faculty members who may not be a good fit and onboard people more in the line with the needs of the school at present. In viewing this, several factors must be explored. First, why are faculty members choosing to leave? Is it strategic on the part of the school? Is it the cyclical nature of hires and tenure in schools? Was there an event, such as a new head of school or mission statement shift, that caused faculty members to choose to leave? All of the answers to the above questions are valid but need to be made clear before hiring the next group of faculty to join your school.

With the above questions addressed, schools must now decide what they want in new faculty members and how to address the points of the triple-threat hiring triangle. Are they looking to hire specialists or generalists? Are they looking to balance their faculty profile with regard to age, gender, educational attainment, or family size? With a great deal of external pressure from parents to hire "experts" in everything from physics to soccer, schools are faced with an added complexity in filling in the hiring matrix. When choosing to hire an "expert" in one area, are schools losing competency in another? And if yes, can they replace that competency with other hires or internal changes to duty assignments? Will the expert hockey coach be able to fill the vacancy left in the English department? Or, will the new Ph.D. in the science department be an effective coach and dorm parent? There are no wrong answers to these questions, but the decisions must be purposeful and informed, not a knee-jerk reaction to address a perceived weakness or outsized desire to build a "premier" program.

While generalists have made up the bulk of triple-threat educators over the years, hiring the generalist has its own challenges. Can this generalist teach at the level a school may require? Can they coach a varsity team? Are they a good fit for the residential program? The generalist can take on a multitude of roles and do most of them exceptionally well. However, schools must decide that this is the type of faculty member they want and not expect something for which they did not hire. This is not saying that the generalist can't be an "expert" educator or outstanding addition to a school, and in many ways, I feel this is the most impactful type of hire schools can be made.

Once a school has decided who they want to hire, and today it is often a mix of experts and generalists, they must then work within the individual confines of the organization. By this I mean budgetary restraints, geographic location, dorm/gender fit, age balance, and housing stock. While a "perfect fit" might have been found in one area, this person might be outside the realm of possibility due to one of the factors listed above. Are they too expensive? Do they come with a large family that will require a house that is presently unavailable? Are they from an urban area on the opposite coast, thus adding a cultural challenge to their life on campus?

While it may seem straightforward with regard to hiring, who schools want, who schools need, and who they can actually hire may be radically different realities. Purposeful planning is key as is a level of honesty among the administrative team that may be uncomfortable to some due to deeply held values and individual institutional histories different members of administrative teams may hold. In any case, hiring good school people is rarely an error. By focusing on just this, hiring the best adults you can to work with your students in a 24/7 environment, balance and consistency can be brought to the three areas of triple-threat life in a way that best serves students.